Airlines flying in bad weather

By Cosmas Omegoh, Christy Anyanwu and Agatha Emeadi

The The Nigerian aviation industry is going through a tough time. Many would call it a bad pass.

Never in the recent past has the industry seen an astronomical increase in airfares, along with a corresponding decrease in customer footfall.

According to the airlines, the sharp rise in aviation fuel coupled with the dizzying fall of the naira is derailing the aviation sector.

Some frequent flyers are unhappy that airfares for a one-hour flight have more than quadrupled. Many of those who cannot afford the new tariffs are groaning, while the few who can are grumbling. Everyone, passengers and air operators, loses.

Why the price of plane tickets keeps rising

As he sifted through the current challenges facing the aviation industry, a senior executive at one of the airlines who preferred anonymity said: “The aviation industry has taken on a new dimension for the worse. . Never in the history of the industry have things been so bad.

“Before September 1, 2022, for example, passengers were allowed 20kg luggage and 6kg hand luggage, but now the weight at check-in is 15kg while hand luggage is of 6 kg. For excess baggage, an extra kg of baggage that previously cost 500 naira now costs 1,000 naira.

“Again, the cost hike has been extended to 50kg extra luggage which used to cost N25,000. It now costs only N50,000. It is unimaginable how these prices have skyrocketed.

He felt that “the big increase is also the result of the increase in aviation fuel”, regretting that “at the start of this year, aviation fuel which cost N150 per liter now costs only N850 “.

He noted that “although there are other fees that are not only the responsibility of the airlines but also of the regulators.

He noted that currently a passenger ticket now sells for N100,000 compared to N23,000 it was sold earlier this year, even when the product is not for airlines alone .

“The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has a percentage to collect, as does the Civil Aviation Authority of Nigeria (NCAA), the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and all airport agencies,” he said.

Now, what about aircraft maintenance? He is unhappy that none of the planes seen are made in the country.

“So when the parts are imported, the charges are paid in foreign currency; then the aircraft is serviced because we are a regulated industry; when an aircraft is brought in, the NCAA has its maintenance record and must follow it; it is a regular procedure that they must follow.

“Any aircraft that needs internal and external maintenance should not be on the grill to fly the next day. All of these have a financial implication coupled with the surge in aviation fuel.

“Besides the agencies, there are managers like SAHCOL and NAHCO who take care of the operations of some airlines like Arik, Dana and Green Africa.

“SAHCOL and NAHCO manage their operations such as check-in and baggage; but for Air Peace, SAHCOL handles their ramp activities like stair setting, bag loading and unloading; they are also paid. Airline has always been and still is an expensive industry, especially with jet fuel which is scarce, the cost of which is high at the same time.

He also informed that another aspect of the industry’s woes is that “some airlines that sold cheap tickets to attract passengers owed a lot of money”.

He noted that at one point the NCAA weighed in to withdraw her AOC due to the huge amount of money she owed, even though she had begun clearing her bills.

Response from air operators

Achilleus Chud-Uchegbu, Corporate Communications Manager, United Nigeria Airline (UNA), said his organization is moving forward in the face of the realities of the aviation industry.

“We fly because we have customers to serve. At this point, with the high cost of Jet-A1 and the exchange rate, we can only think about our customers and how to provide solutions for their travel needs, not profit.

“Because we serve to unite people with their destinations, loved ones, and all safely and comfortably, we remain patriotically committed to meeting those needs. So we continue to operate within current industry realities while leaning back as much as possible to adapt to new realities, but never compromising on safety and all necessary industry regulations.

A senior Arik Air official admitted that many people weren’t flying like they used to.

However, he said that notwithstanding, they are in business, adding “we have no choice. Either way, we’re sailing.

He further admitted that “People complain about the high airfares, but I say the fares are not high compared to the aviation fuel price challenges. The cost of aviation fuel which was below N300 per liter in January this year is now between N800 and N900. Look at the percentage increase. When you look at this disparity, you see that the tickets are still undervalued so to speak.

“Normally, the cost of aviation fuel is not supposed to be 40% higher than the operating cost. You can see that even at this high rate it is still cheap in Nigeria compared to what we buy in terms of aviation fuel.

“Now tell me! What is cheap in Nigeria today? Isn’t everything a reflection of the country’s economic situation? We just pray that there is a way out of all of this.

“What we are experiencing now is global. This is not just a Nigerian problem; we just pray that there is a way out of this.

Passengers complain

Recalling how the current air regime has affected him, Prince Supo Atobatele, former Chief Executive of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), said: “I was supposed to be going to Abuja since last month, but I couldn’t go. I was also supposed to be in Calabar last month, but couldn’t make it.

“Now the cost of a one-way trip varies between 125,000 and 150,000 naira. A return ticket costs between N250,000 and N300,000.

“People don’t travel much by plane these days. They prefer to travel by road. More and more people are using online transactions rather than travelling.

He also lamented that “passenger cargo and baggage allowances have been reduced. Conversely, the cost of freight for domestic travel has increased; so these are all multiplier effects.

So he asked? “If you have N250,000 in your account, a trip that is supposed to cost you N50,000 return and that trip will cost you N250,000, won’t you wisely abandon that trip, make phone calls and send all your documents by email?

A journalist, Mike Owordi, who traveled to Abuja last week from Lagos, told the Sunday Sun he paid for a return ticket for N150,000.

“But that was because I had made a reservation for the trip two weeks before.

“Some people who were on the same fight with me, who bought their tickets at the counter on the same day paid up to N103,000.”

While expressing his regret, he said, “I don’t really understand where we are going.

“If things continue like this, I wonder what will happen to the aviation industry soon.”

Another air traveler, Jones Awa, who told our correspondent he also flew to Abuja from Lagos last week, revealed he paid 200,000 naira for a return ticket, lamenting that the situation in the aviation industry is close to disaster.

Listen to him: “I paid up to N100,000 for each of the two stages.

“I learned that some people even pay more.

“As things stand, the aviation industry is facing calamitous times. Disaster is imminent if things don’t improve.

“My friend who visited Abuja a week ago said that delays and cancellations were gradually becoming the order of the day for air operators.

“He said the airlines need to delay their flights and possibly combine them with other flights in order to carry a full load of passengers. But we don’t have to blame them anyway. It’s a sign of the times. .

“When you hear the cost of aviation fuel and how much it takes to run a plane, be patient with them and pray for a safe journey. This is where we met.

Iyabo Jones, a politician, said she had not traveled for a long time due to the high cost of airfares.

She revealed that her last trip was on July 22, when she traveled for a funeral from Lagos to Ilorin and back.

“This trip gobbled up about 160,000 naira,” she lamented, adding that “I felt it was a waste of money. There were four of us on this trip; and we regretted not have rented a bus for the trip.

“Before, a one-way plane ticket to Ilorin from Lagos cost between 19,000 and 20,000 naira.”

Ms Inyang Denize, an immigration officer, told our correspondent that a one-way ticket from Lagos to Uyo now costs 100,000 naira.

“Since the fare went up, I haven’t traveled anywhere. Nigeria is becoming too expensive,” she lamented.

The travel agent confirms its increase

A travel agent, Ignatius Nzenwa, confirmed that ticket prices had skyrocketed in recent times.

According to him, “There is no domestic airfare that costs less than N80,000 now.

“The last one way ticket I wrote was for a trip from Lagos to Owerri. It cost N105,000; same for another one way ticket for a trip from Lagos to Abuja.

He also confirmed a similar increase in international airfares to our correspondent, saying the current trend could be attributed to the rising cost of aviation fuel and the current summer holiday season. He said: “Two months ago, a round-trip economy ticket to Asia, especially South Korea, cost just over 630,000 naira. Now the ticket for this region goes beyond N868,000.

“A business class ticket to Europe which used to cost between 1.6 and 1.8 million naira, is now between 2.5 and 2.8 million naira depending on the airline.

“We are aware that it is travel season. People come and go from summer vacation. This also affects air fares. Astronomical increases in the price of aviation fuel are also believed to be responsible for the cost of fares. We also cannot wish for the naira to fall in value.

A passenger who recently flew from London to Lagos told Our Correspondent that low customer footfall could just as easily affect foreign airlines as the airliner that brought him was half full.

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