• Monday, April 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Air Peace’s maiden London flight fully booked amid scarce cheap tickets

Air Peace, capitalism, and national interest!

Air Peace’s maiden flight to London slated for March 30, 2024 is already fully booked by Nigerians who have since sought cheaper tickets.

Nigeria’s largest carrier had pegged its economy class ticket at N1.2 million, thereby slashing fares on the route.

According to the airline, a return Economy Class ticket goes for N1.2 million while a return Business Class ticket sells for N4 million, and Nigerians studying in the UK can now access their special 15 percent rebate on the already reduced Economy Class fares.

Meanwhile, the average cost for a return Economy Class ticket on a foreign airline is about N3 million, while Business Class goes for about N8 million or more.

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Foreign airlines have failed to reduce fares despite a warning by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) that lower ticket inventories (cheaper tickets) be released.

Airfares in the last two years have risen by over 400 percent as a result of accumulating trapped funds of foreign airlines in Nigeria caused by the lingering foreign exchange scarcity in the country.

For two years now, airlines blocked low ticket inventories, leaving high inventories to be sold in naira only while the low ticket inventories on most airlines’ websites can be bought with dollar cards only. This was in a bid to cushion the effect of their trapped funds in Nigeria.

However, the NCAA recently directed airlines to release low ticket inventories, but BusinessDay’s findings show that many of the airlines showed cheaper ticket classes on their websites but these ticket classes were not accessible to Nigerians.

High fares charged by foreign carriers have driven many Nigerians to book Air Peace.

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“I am particularly excited that Air Peace is now flying to London because I am a frequent flier on the Lagos-London route. I have two businesses I run in London and some in Nigeria. So I often fly to London from Lagos. Fares have been so high in the past two years and this has since eaten into my business profits. Air Peace is coming at the right time and I am really happy because it will change the narrative of air travel on the Lagos-London route,” Temitayo Lawanson told BusinessDay.

Susan Akporiaye, president of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies, told BusinessDay that Air Peace’s maiden flight to London was filled up within a few days after the airline announced ticket prices, which shows how much Nigerians have waited for cheap tickets.

Akporiaye said after the NCAA warning, foreign airlines managed to release a few low inventories, which are hardly accessible.

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She said: “Legacy carriers say they have released low inventories, yet cheap tickets are still not available. The legacy airlines say the low inventory tickets have all been fully booked but I know this may not be true.

“They released the tickets to avoid NCAA sanctions. Flights are still very expensive. Some of the low inventory tickets won’t be available till April or even May. That is why Nigerians are quite excited about Air Peace and travel agents are willing to support Air Peace.”

A one-way Economy Class ticket from Lagos to London on British Airways cost N4.5 million for Premium Economy and N11 million for Business Class.

On Lufthansa, a one-way economy class ticket from Lagos to London cost N1.4 million for Economy Basic and N1.6 million for Economy Basic plus. Both were not accessible at the time of filing this report. Accessible tickets on Lufthansa cost N1.7 million for Economy Flex and N3 million for Premium Economy.

On Virgin Atlantic, the same destination cost N1.3 million for Economy Class, which is no longer available. Accessible tickets on Virgin Atlantic cost between N2 million to N5.6 million. An Upper Class ticket on Virgin Atlantic cost N12.3 million.

Kingsley Nwokeoma, president of the Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria, told BusinessDay that while foreign airlines agreed to release low ticket inventories, this may take time as it requires planning and some processes.

He said: “Airlines are different with different rules and procedures of doing things. Some of these things take time and procedures. These things go through processes before they are implemented.

“However the reason why tickets are high is because of trapped airline funds. Before trapped funds, airlines had low inventory tickets. I appeal to the government to pay the airlines. Nigeria owes these airlines a lot of money compared to what other countries owe them.”