Whether it is just to visit family or to enjoy a relaxing vacation, Christmas might not be the usual for many this year as yuletide season is often associated with lots of travels.
Air travellers might have to pay over a hundred per cent increase for their airfare this year. A finding by PlatinumPost revealed.
A check on some of the airlines indicated fares spike on bookings with flights sold out for the next three days.
For instance, a one-way ticket to Kano from Abuja now costs as much N80,000 to N100,000. A one-way ticket from Abuja to Lagos as on Wednesday morning was pegged from N60,000 to N70,000.
Reacting to this, a businesswoman, Mrs Mercy Okeke, who spoke to our correspondent lamented the hike which she described as “outrageous and insensitive.”
“The federal government must find a way to always torment us. I can’t understand why the hike is over 100 per cent in such a hard time. It is too early to increase the flight fare even if it’s because of Christmas.
“It is outrageous and insensitive to pay more than double of what I paid weeks back,” Okeke said.
A travel agent, who pleaded anonymity, explained that although with the effects of the pandemic, such developments are not new even as airlines capitalize on the yuletide travels to make more money.
He said another major problem is the limitation of aircraft to transport travellers whose demands have out-weighted the capacity of available aircraft.
“Only a few airlines operate but not fully like before. Routes like from Abuja to Asaba and Abuja to Benin now have only a flight daily. Lagos usually has many flights daily but you have to book days before you travel despite the outrageous spike in airfare.
“As I speak to you, flights to Lagos for another three to four days are sold out,” he said.
Aviation experts have projected upsurge in airfare, attributing it to the trio issues of forex, the surge of travellers during the festive season and the negative effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation sector being the worst hit industry.
Speaking on the development, Manager of Aero Contractors, Mr Abdulmalik Jibreel, said the company increased its fares due to dollar to naira exchange rate coupled with the high demand for tickets by passengers.
According to him, the airline has no option than to increase the fare to meet the demand for foreign exchange in the aircraft parts’ market.
“Government should make a certain percentage for the airlines in the area of `FOREX` through the Central Bank of Nigeria. By doing so, this may make ticket fare to drop.
“Government needs to step into the aviation sector because we do not manufacture any part of aircraft in Nigeria. One of the previous administrations in the country once waived custom duty on all spare parts of aircraft.
“Government needs to take all these steps to make the aviation sector viable. If not, masses will pay for it, “ he said.
On his part, Max Air Station Manager, Mr Kehinde Ogunyale, said apart from the issue of foreign exchange, the festive season also contributed to the hike of fares.
“We are in the traditional high season. The demand has outweighed capacity. After this period, we are going to a period called `low season`. That is the middle of January when nobody will want to fly.
“ So, to attract passengers, we will need to lower down the prices. As I said, this is the `high season,’’ Ogunyale said.
Another former top official of the airline, who spoke exclusively with PlatinumPost, corroborated Ogunyale’s position.
“Max Air has enough planes to service that Abuja-Kano route, it is just because of the festive season that resulted in the flights being fully booked ahead of time,” the former official, who craved anonymity said.
While the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, is yet to respond a message sent to him by PlatinumPost on what government is doing to curtail the exorbitant fares, Dr James Odaudu, Director of Public Affairs, Ministry of Aviation, recently said the ministry lacks the power to fix ticket prices for any airline operator.
“ The ministry does not have the power to fix ticket prices for airlines. If airlines feel they can increase their tickets, others should take advantage of lowering their tickets prices.
“ Masses should learn to patronize the ones with lower prices. The others will be forced to go with market forces. It is all about forces of demand and supply,” he said.