Nigerian airlines can’t stop pushing up prices

Can you pay more?
Can you pay more?
Image: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde
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Two major domestic airlines in Nigeria have increased the price of local flights from a baseline of 50,000 naira ($120) for economy seats to as much as N58,000 ($139) this week, signaling the industry’s effort to manage an aviation fuel scarcity spanning months.

The airlines threatened to suspend operations last week Monday (May 9) citing increasing cost of operations, but appeared to reach a temporary agreement with sellers of the fuel to buy at a fixed rate, with the intervention of federal lawmakers. For a few days after, N50,000 remained the base fare for prices.

But that has started changing this week with more than 10% increases in some cases, checks for the popular Lagos to Abuja route showed. Among the airlines to raise prices are Air Peace, and Ibom Air, the market leaders.

Nigerian airlines have raised prices twice in six months

Flight ticket prices have been shooting up in Nigeria since February when airlines doubled prices from what used to be a N23,000 ($55) baseline. Now as then, the pretext was the rising cost of jet fuel, even if airlines also took advantage of increased patronage driven by increased insecurity along Nigerian highways and railway routes.

This week’s hike has not been as uniformly implemented as was the case three months ago. Of the five major local airlines (by number of flights operated in 2021), only Air Peace and Ibom Air have raised prices. Arik Air, Max Air, and Dana Air either still maintain the N50,000 mark or offer trips at lower prices.

Still, it might be only a matter of time before customers of these other companies start seeing price increases as well, owing to the global and persisting nature of the jet fuel issue.

While threatening to down tools last week, Nigerian airlines complained that the actual cost of producing one seat of a flight was N120,000. Raising prices to that may prove too prohibitive for the traveling public, yet that would mean doubling current rates – something airlines have already done once and largely gotten away with.