Cost of maintenance, spiraling exchange rates, impact of COVID-19, among other factors have been listed by stakeholders as possible reasons the current increase in airfares might not end soon.
An average one-hour economy class seat of N33, 000 has risen to N75, 000. The return trip variant peaks at N121, 000 from about N60, 000 this week. Stakeholders opine that the spike was a strategy deployed to cover basic costs as opposed to making profits.
Chief Operation Officer of one of the local carriers said the major worry was the high cost of maintenance. He cited A/C check, which is required every 18 months, as costing an average of $2 million per commercial aircraft. “You can only imagine the impact when you translate this cost to our free-falling naira”, he stressed.
Former commandant of the Lagos Airport and aviation security consultant, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd) opined that from the 1990s till date, the spike in exchange rates had always put airline operators on the losing side of the bargain. He stated that the increase in airfares is only commensurate with the economic realities, and that given this, airlines might for once be charging something close to the right fares.
It is obvious that an increase in airfares, for many Nigerians, has further aggravated the harsh realities of other hikes in basic essentials such as food items, electricity tariffs, fuel, road transportation, amongst others. Operators are quick to blame the spike on the $1 to N480 exchange rate.
The prices which have gone up by a 100% do not reflect the harsh realities of the times. Although local operators claim the spike was deployed to cover cost and not to make gain, the increment is very likely to affect the business of airline operators. Travels are essentially characteristic of the yuletide season. With the presence of the coronavirus, and the constant warnings from the Presidential Task Force (PTF) to Nigerians both home and abroad, travels in the season are likely to drop by about 70%.
Transport operators have constantly lamented the impact of this on their business as the yuletide season naturally profits them in significant gains. A spike in airfares will as such affect not only users but also providers of airline service. There is also a possibility that in the course of trying to cover costs. and given these harsh realities some persons are very likely to lose their job pending when things normalize.
Aviation stakeholders have however asked the government to come to the aid of the local industry by availing a special forex window for local and foreign operators. They insisted that unless the FG comes to the fore, airfares might continue to spike and become unbearable for the travelling public.