Local airlines have doubled their airfares on high-traffic seasonal routes, posing challenges for domestic travellers this festive season.

The cost of an Economy airline ticket on the East and Southern routes has increased to N200,000 from its October peak of N100,000 on average. Subject to seat availability, the round-trip version now retails for N350,000 to about N1 million.

The Economy learnt that the recent surge is not unrelated to high operating costs, capacity constraints, seasonal high demand, and purported exploitation.

Yesterday’s airline-wide findings by The Economy revealed that, depending on the airline and time of booking, the average ticket of N70,000 for a one-hour (one-way) travel in early October has climbed to between N120,500 and N270,000.

Air Peace’s one-way Lagos-Anambra flight ticket, available before Christmas, costs N171,500, averaging N66,900 after Christmas, while a Lagos-Enugu flight ticket costs between N123,900 and N266,800.

United Nigeria Airlines (UNA) offers competitive flights between Lagos-Enugu, Lagos-Anambra, and Abuja-Anambra, with prices ranging from N125,500 to N220,500 per seat.

Traditional flights between Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, and Kano are currently priced between N100,000 and N160,000.

The steady free-fall of the naira value to the dollar has kept registering new odd records in the air transport sector. With aviation fuel now almost N1000/litre, operators-cum-travel agencies are in a pricing dilemma.

Domestic carriers have experienced a 400% increase in aviation fuel prices over the past three years due to an exchange rate hike.

Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, Prof. Obiora Okonkwo, who also doubles as the spokesperson of the Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON), noted that domestic airfares, for so long, did not tag along with hikes in fuel price, FX and other cost of operations, just for the affordability of the public.

Okonkwo said: “We are subsidizing the cost of seats per flight. So, if you see fare increases now, please understand. They may still be higher because we are not covering the cost of operations. The little adjustment is to serve the public better. It is better to fly safe, be viable and remain in business than just flying cheap and risk collapse,” Okonkwo said.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Aero Contractors, Capt. Ado Sanusi, however, blamed the fares on airlines that have monopolised some of the Eastern routes, due to low capacity.

Sanusi criticized exploitative airfares on South-east and South-south routes and proposed increased capacity and urged additional airlines to join existing operators.

“I believe that there are some exploitative tendencies and prices. I believe so, especially on the monopoly routes. The eastern routes are somehow monopolised and come with exploitative prices.

“It’s the capacity. If we have more airlines coming into the country and the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) allows more airlines to fly, then it will bring the price down.

“The more airlines we have flying, the more competitive it becomes and the more the prices will go down, but since we make regulations that are so hostile to start-up airlines, then, the prices will always go up.”

The operators have routinely criticised the CAA’s policy that mandates scheduled local carriers to have a minimum of six aircraft fleet, to ease flight delays and cancellations.

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