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Yuletide: Hard times for air travellers as ticket prices double

As yuletide approaches, airline passengers are facing hard times over the skyrocketing cost of tickets, findings by Daily Trust have...

As yuletide approaches, airline passengers are facing hard times over the skyrocketing cost of tickets, findings by Daily Trust have revealed. 

Checks by our correspondents showed that ticket prices have doubled on all the domestic routes, as well as some international destinations ahead of the Christmas and New Year holiday bookings. 

But for the December booking, any passenger who has not made a reservation as of yesterday may have to pay exorbitant fees on the limited flight options as findings showed that most of the flights have gone up by over 100 per cent. 

Apart from the Lagos-Abuja route, which has many flight options and cheaper rates if the reservation is being done a week or two before departure, most flights in December to the South East, South South and the Northern routes are either fully booked or are too exorbitant. 

For instance, as of yesterday, Lagos-Enugu flights on Air Peace for December have been fully booked from December 15, while the price has increased to N95, 400. 

Lagos-Port Harcourt flight on Ibom Air is between N53, 000 and N70, 000 from December 12, 2021, as Yuletide bookings increase demand on the route.

Other routes which have seen increasing demands ahead of the New Year festivities are Owerri, Asaba and Benin, the Edo State capital.

Flights to Enugu and Owerri, the Imo State capital, it was learnt, are now in high demand since they serve other parts of the South East and South South without airports. 

Lagos-Owerri flight on Dana Air, for instance, costs as much as N80, 100 depending on the time of booking while the lowest fare on the website as of the time of filing this report was N55, 800.

In contrast, Lagos-Enugu flight as well as Lagos-Port Harcourt flights used to be about N32, 000 as the lowest fare on Dana Air two weeks ago.

On Air Peace, it was around N33, 000 when there was no rush. 

Also, prices of flight tickets to Ilorin have also skyrocketed in recent times with an Abuja-Ilorin flight costing as much as 60,000 in December as against the previous N29, 000 to N32, 000.

No much trouble for passengers going far North

Flights to destinations in the far North are still not largely different if one was booked about two weeks ahead. Azman airline was selling tickets from Abuja to Maiduguri for N35, 000 for December 10, as of the time when our correspondent checked their sites.  

Also, a flight from Abuja to Gombe on Azman Airlines, on December 15, 2021, was going for about N39, 000 when our correspondent checked.  

On Arik Air for December 21, a flight from Abuja to Sokoto was about N51, 000 while Air Peace was charging about N95, 000 to Yola for December 21, 2021.  

A visit to the Murtala Mohammed Airport (MMA) domestic wing also showed that many passengers who were booking over the counter were paying higher fares to various destinations.

A passenger told our correspondent that the Lagos-Abuja flight costs as much as N80,000 yesterday, while most of the flights, except a few, were fully booked at the Lagos Airport. 

This followed the rescheduling of a flight by one of the airlines leaving many of the passengers stranded. 

“As I am talking to you, many passengers are disappointed. We tried alternative options but all flights were already booked. Some are even selling some tickets for N80, 000,” the passenger said.

Some persons who had booked flights this weekend also shared their experience on the hike in airfare. Malam Musa Haruna, who sought to reserve a ticket for next month, narrated his observation.  

“I tried to buy tickets last week for a family to Kano for mid-December. Aside from the very exorbitant prices I noticed, my efforts to pay for the tickets were seriously frustrated and with every new attempt the price jumped up. The price changed three times.” 

Similarly, Joseph Onu said there were middlemen now involved in the racketeering to sell tickets to the highest bidder as the flights have been fully booked.  

“I have also discovered that because flight tickets have been fully booked, some personnel at the airports are making brisk business by selling at black-market prices. 

“I just had an experience at Malam Aminu Kano International Airport today on my way back to Abuja, where someone else’s ticket was sold to me far above the normal price,” he noted. 

An analyst said the relatively cheaper cost of flights to northern destinations might not be based on the fact that Christmas festivities were not intense in the North compared to the South. 

An airline operator who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity blamed the hike on the high demand due to the holiday rush. 

“Yes, tickets are high now because one, we are seeing increasing demands from our passengers, coupled with the Christmas holiday. As I am talking to you, most of our flights to the Eastern parts of the country from December 15 have been fully booked. We always advise our passengers to plan their schedule to avoid this kind of issue,” the airline official said. 

Speaking on the development, the Director of Research and Corporate Travels, Zenith Travels, Mr Olumide Ohunayo, attributed the skyrocketing ticket prices to several factors including the seasonal demands, high cost of operations by airlines, high exchange rate, among others. 

He said, “Tickets are high because this is the season and there are particular routes that the tickets jump in December. 

“For us in Nigeria, this is the time for travel. People come home from outside the country and go to the villages and that makes demand to be higher. And once the demand is high, definitely the cost of the ticket would be high.

“This is coupled with the high cost of the exchange rate, the naira to the dollar. Despite all efforts put in by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), we are yet to see a significant change in the exchange rate. That is what has added to the cost of operations. 

“Again, the aviation fuel at the moment is rising by the day. It is not as cheap as it was in 2020 when the COVID-19 came in. That has also added to the cost of operations by airlines.” 

An official of Max Air, Barrister Shehu Wada, while encouraging passengers to plan their journey well, said passengers tend to pay higher depending on the time of flight. 

Wada, who is an executive of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), however, confirmed that the high cost of operation had forced airlines to marginally adjust ticket prices to break even. 

Dana Air spokesman, Mr Kingsley Ezenwa, had told our correspondent that the forces of demand and supply drove air ticket costs during festivities. 

He also said the airlines, too, were leveraging on the traffic during festivals to recover some losses during downtime.  

We’ve no power to fix prices – NCAA 

When contacted, spokesman for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Mr Sam Adurogboye, stated that airfare had been liberalised and was now driven by demand and supply, adding that NCAA had no power to fix price.

“Airfare is a function of demand and supply. For as long as passengers buy at the rate airlines fixed, it is not in our place to step in,” said Adurogboye.

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