Empty Terminals: N400,000 For Lagos-Abuja Return Flight Deflates Passenger Traffic At Airports

This is not the best of times for airline operators in Nigeria following the decline in the number of domestic passengers in recent times, with the airport terminals across the country becoming virtually empty even at relatively busy periods, findings have shown....READ FULL ARTICLE

This, observers say, is a result of the hike in the prices of tickets with a return Lagos-Abuja flight costing over N400,000.

This represents over a 300 per cent increase in two years as a one-way ticket for the Lagos-Abuja flight used to cost N50,000.

February 2022 was the month airlines came together and jacked up their fares by over 100 per cent, pegging the lowest fare at N50,000 which the passengers protested.

But two years later, airfares have skyrocketed by over 300 per cent amidst the mounting inflationary pressures in the country and foreign exchange hikes.

As of the time of filing this report, a one-way 50-minute flight costs between N143,000 to N230,000 – for Lagos to Abuja – which is the busiest route at the moment.

Checks on Ibom Air for Tuesday’s travel showed that the Lagos-Abuja flight cost N150,000; N185,000 and N200,000 depending on the time of trip.

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For ValueJet, the fare ranges from N123,905 while for Max Air it is N195,000. Also, Arik Air sells its ticket for N123,452.

When our correspondent visited the domestic terminals of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos, fewer passengers were seen at the counters, even as the lounges and boarding areas were virtually empty.

One of the airport workers who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity said, “People are not travelling again because the fare is very expensive. But I still know that people who have something important to do will still go by air but this is unlike before.”

Similarly, an airline executive in an interview with our correspondent said, “The passenger turnout is actually low but some days are not too bad. It is normal for passengers to feel the shock occasioned by the current realities. Everything has gone up but I believe things will improve soon.”

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Our correspondent gathered that airlines operating in Nigeria have collaborated more in recent times by sharing passengers instead of flying with less than 50 per cent of passengers.

Though some of the airlines which are members of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) in 2022 entered into a codeshare agreement tagged, “Spring Alliance”, the implementation has not been effective.

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) of United Nigeria Airlines, Mazi Osita Okonkwo, who confirmed the development, said this is the practice now with the capacity constraint in the market.

He said, “It is now more of a cooperation agreement among the member airlines. It is a reprotection and something that came out of necessity. So, we are still working on it. Only two or three airlines are very strong in the alliance for now; United Nigeria Airlines, Air Peace and possibly Dana Air.”

A travel stakeholder, Mr Olumide Ohunayo, described the airfare as “crazy” even as he blamed the development on airlines’ operating costs which have also skyrocketed.

He said, “You wouldn’t want the airlines to run at a loss; they are giving prices based on their cost. The fuel price has jumped up, we must accept that the fuel prices have gone up; the dollar rate has hit the roof against the naira, and other expenses too have jumped up.

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“So the airlines have no choice but to fix a price that would at least make them be in business. I don’t think we should talk about profitability right now.”

Ohunayo, who is the General Secretary of Aviation Roundtable, also stated that many passengers can no longer travel except for very important occasions.

“As for businesses, you can see that a lot of them are already running at a loss, and some have even left the country. That means such companies will reduce travel. So if businesses reduce travel, it will definitely affect airline travelers.

“So it’s not an airline issue alone, it’s the situation of the economy, something should be done about it so that companies can kick start their operations back to normalcy.”...READ FULL ARTICLE

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