Nigerians, who travel by air, have decried the “sudden” upsurge in air fares and urged the Federal Government to intervene to avoid poor patronage that could dwindle the fortunes of the aviation industry.
Newsmen report that the air fares went up by about 100 per cent in the last one week, with some airline operators raising theirs as much as 120 per cent or more.
At Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, the fare from Abuja to Lagos, which was N35,300 (Economy Class), rose to between N70,000 and N75,000.
Newsmen found that Business Class travellers were charged between N100,000 and N120,000, depending on the airline.
Following reports from the newsmen who visited other airports across the country, we found out, that the rise in airfares was the same, a situation that forced some passengers to either abort their travel plans or travel by road or rail.
Most airline operators if not all attributed the airfare hike to the current exchange rate, and claimed that a dollar that was exchanged for N365 in November had gone up to between N480 and N500 in the open market.
Kehinde Ogunyale, Station Manager, Max Air, NAIA, told newsmen that the rise in the fare was inevitable if the airlines were to stay afloat.
“If we do not increase the fare, we may be left behind and will not be able to fund operations anymore,” he explained.
Ogunyale further said that the festive season had also contributed to the fare increase.
“We are in a season where demand usually outweighs capacity. We expect the fares to come down by January when there will be a drought of passengers,” he said.
Abdulmalik Jibreel, Station Manager of Aero Contractors, another airline at NAIA, concurred to the same situation as reasons for the fare hike.
“The airlines have no option but to increase the fare to meet the cost of foreign exchange in the market of aircraft parts,” Abdulmalik said.
As the airline operators struggle to explain reasons behind the airfare hike, air passengers have decried the “astronomical” rise and expressed the fear that the situation would go out of hands if there were no urgent steps taken.
Some passengers who spoke with newsmen in Ibadan, Akure and Ilorin on Sunday, said that air travelling might soon become unaffordable by many people, if nothing urgent was done.
Alhaji Issa Ore, Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress in Kwara, bemoaned the 100 per cent fare hike, especially at Ilorin Airport, describing it as unacceptable.
He said that airline operators had been taking advantage of bad roads in some parts of the country, which had forced many people to opt for air travels, to arbitrarily hike their fares.
According to the labour leader, if the roads had been motorable and train services available, most people would have preferred to travel by road.
“The increase in air fare is not a good development. The airline operators are taking advantage of our bad roads to increase air fares arbitrarily.
While other concerned citizens urged the Federal Government to intensify efforts to make the rail system work in the country so that it could be an alternative to air transportation that was gradually getting out of reach.