New Telegraph

Low patronage forces airlines to cut fares

A sharp reduction in the number of people that travel within the country and the harsh economic reality may have compelled airlines to adjust fares downward, despite myriad of challenges confronting the carriers. Fares which jumped astronomically in July 2023, from N50,000 to between N80,000 and N100,000 for a way trip to Lagos from Abuja or Lagos to Port-Harcourt, have reverted to N65,000 and N70,000 respectively. A survey by New Telegraph across some airlines’ counters last week has shown that there is a remarkable reduction in fares. Experts who spoke to our reporters said low patronage and low load factor may have compelled the carriers to rethink the situation by lowering fares.

The Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Capt Ado Sanusi, however said this could be possible because of the Valentine’s Day promotional fares airlines have been advertising, stressing that about two seats are usually given out for promotion. He however noted that ordinarily fares should not be more than N70,000 or N75, 000, which he said amounts to between $65 and $70 for an hour’s flight. His words: “I think what is happening is that most airlines introduced Valentine’s Day promo, which is usually two or three seats. You may need to check next week, after Valentine’s, to know if it is the same. But in truth, N130, 000 and N140, 000 sold for a few months ago were expensive. If you look at it, one one-hour trip should not cost more than N75,000.” Former Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Capt Dapo Olumide, said low load factor may have compelled the airlines to readjust fares rather than fly empty. An official of one of the domestic airlines who spoke with our correspondent said: “The passengers coming to the airport have somehow dropped.

“People are probably now travelling by road. Those you see at the airport now are big men. “Where 80 to 85 per cent of the passengers are doing business, most of them are not seeing any business to do now. I guess what is happening in Abuja right now is more politics than business. So it is the politicians that are moving.” The Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines and spokesman for Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Chief Obiorah Okonkwo, said as fallout of the present economic situation in the country, passenger traffic has shrunk. He explained: “Passenger traffic has shrunk because even those on social engagement like weddings, burials and other ceremonies may not be inclined to spend money on flight tickets; they would rather send credit alerts to those hosting the events who would appreciate such gestures. So, they pay instead of appearing in person.” Okonkwo also said the operators’ passion to remain in business “is being eroded” and that some airlines are gasping for breath, adding: “We are making losses on factors that are beyond our control. We are not only faced with the problem of scarcity of dollars; even the aviation ecosystem is feeling the heat.”

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