Airfares on The Rise, Domestic Travel Nears Recovery

Air operators have seen a travel uptick in Nigeria’s aviation industry, especially on domestic routes.

This is coming as the average fare paid by air passengers for specified routes on a single journey increased by 0.02 per cent month-on-month and 18.27 per cent year-on-year to N36,463.65 in January 2021 from N36,454.59 in December 2020, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The statistics office in its Transport Fare Watch report for January revealed that states with the highest airfares were Anambra (N38,600); Cross River/Jigawa/Lagos (N38,500) and Bauchi (N38,400); while states with the lowest airfares were Akwa Ibom (N32,450); Sokoto (N33,700); and Gombe N35,000.

Operators stated that demand for local travel was improving with load factor level averaging 70 per cent.

A spokesman for Dana Air, Mr. Kingsley Ezenwa, said the airline was enjoying a load factor of 85 per cent.

He said, “In December, it was 98 per cent and now it is between 80 per cent and 75 per cent while it can go up to 90 per cent. It depends on the days too.

“We are doing very well in terms of domestic routes. The challenge is always there. America gave airlines some additional support. Whatever support the government can give will be appreciated. In as much as passenger figure is 80 per cent, airlines will require support from the government.”

Going further, Ezenwa said fares increase was a matter of market forces but he said the foreign exchange could slightly affect the fare regime.

He said, “Fares are a matter of demand and supply and if you book ahead, you will always get the best fare. If you book late, you won’t get the same fare as someone who booked two weeks ago or a week ago.

“The time you book is a key determiner even though the dollar will play a slight role. However, the law of demand and supply will play a bigger role.”

The spokesperson of Air Peace, Stanley Olisa, said, “The traffic has been good. This is compared to what obtained when the restriction of flights was lifted. There is a steady rise in passenger traffic.”

An aviation consultant, Mr Olumide Ohunayo, told our correspondent that the increase in fares was on specific routes.

He said, “The fares increased on specific routes that have high demand. However, if you plan your travel, you can get a good deal. I saw a ticket for Abuja below N30,000 because I paid and planned for it. If I book close to the day of travel, it will be high and that is how the system worldwide.”

He added, “There is an uptick in domestic travel but not on international travel and this is due to the protocol that has made external travel more expensive and uncomfortable.”

Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association in its latest poll of recent travellers, published on its website revealed the growing confidence in a return to air travel, frustration with current travel restrictions, and acceptance of a travel app to manage health credentials for travel.

The Vice President, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies, Lagos Zone, Mr Yinka Folami, who spoke on the traveller confidence on international routes said that nobody was travelling externally.

He said, “There is no one travelling; you can see all the restrictions. Since the second wave for January, we have been suffering a gradual loss. Where can you go? Restrictions into the United Kingdom is heavy. Into Europe, they never really opened up. Canada is still heavy. America is getting more restrictive, China more restrictive and Dubai has completely closed up to Nigeria. So, there is no uptick.”

Folami, however, expressed strong optimism that travel would bounce back as he stressed that the industry was very resilient.

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