As the holiday season approaches, travellers are starting to plan their trips and book their flights but cheap tickets are no longer available as air fares have already risen by 100 percent.
Stakeholders have blamed the rise in jet fuel prices for the significant increase in air ticket prices across various Nigerian airlines.
“Tickets from Lagos to Abuja, Port Harcourt, Owerri, Uyo and Enugu, the most frequently visited destinations during Christmas, have already risen by over 100 percent. We noticed the sharp rise in Christmas prices as soon as aviation fuel started to rise,” Gina Chika, a travel agent, said.
According to Chika, airfares for Christmas don’t increase until November but this year, the increase came suddenly during the first week of October after aviation fuel price rose from N800 to N1,000 per litre.
Air Peace, one of the leading airlines in the country, through its booking portals show ticket prices for its different routes. Outbound and inbound one-way tickets from Lagos to Abuja which sold for N55,00 to N65,000 now range from N100,300 to N162,000. Similarly, a ticket from Lagos to Enugu in the economy flexible category cost N100,300. An offer that is going out of order as there are no other seat options for booking.
For those planning to travel from Lagos to Owerri between December 15 and January 5, the prices are even higher. An economy flexible outbound one-way ticket which was priced at N50,000 now goes for N105,000, while a business domestic outbound ticket can go up to N190,600. The return journey from Owerri to Lagos in the economy flexible category now cost travellers N133,400.
A similar surge in air fares can be observed for flights from Lagos to Port Harcourt during the same period. An economy flexible outbound one-way ticket which used to sell for an average of N60,000 now costs between N105,000 and N133,400, while the economy flexible inbound ticket ranges from N100,300 to N133,400.
Dana Air, another popular Nigerian airline, shows through its booking portal that passengers traveling from Lagos to Abuja, at the latter time in December, will pay N200,000 for an economy flexible ticket, and upon returning in January will pay N250,000 for a business flexible ticket N250,000.
The surge in air fares is not limited to just one route. Flights from Lagos to Owerri and Lagos to Port Harcourt on Dana Air during the holiday season will also see a substantial increase in ticket prices. An economy flexible ticket for either destination costs N200,000, while a business flexible ticket will set travellers back around N250,000.
United Nigeria Airlines, though offering limited flights during December and early January, is not exempted from the impact of increased jet fuel prices. For example, the only tickets available before December 15 from Lagos to Abuja, Enugu, and Port Harcourt are priced at N100,000. After said date, no flights will be available.
Roland Iyayi, a member of the Airline Operators of Nigeria, (AON), said that aviation fuel constitutes 40 per cent operating cost for every airline and with the product at 1,000 per litre, it is no longer sustainable.
“If the NNPC champions sustainable aviation fuel using palm oil, it will give Nigeria a comparative advantage and the bigger picture is that the economy will grow and it will remove import dependency and create jobs. So, for the airline operators, we say there is a technology available and there is raw material available so we can use that as an advantage to lead the world in alternative aviation fuel,” Iyayi said.
The aviation fuel crisis which began in late February 2022 and deteriorated further through the months of March 2022 to May 2022, threatened the ability of airlines to continue operations with the price of JetA1 rising from N200 in December 2021 to over N400 per litre in February and to N800 in May.
The situation had forced airlines to raise base fares from an average of N28,000 to N50,000 and to as much as N100,000. Stakeholders had predicted that the fare raise will lead to drop in passenger traffic but the reverse had been the case.
The elections and insecurity challenges across the country have seen passenger numbers increase and aircraft movements increase amid the challenges.