Latest economic reality has forced many Nigerians to suspend their travel plans to the United States and Europe following the increase in fares which has tripled as a result of the high exchange rate for ticket pricing.
According to BusinessDay investigations, an economy class ticket from Lagos to London and Lagos to France and most European countries which cost around N1.5 million a month ago, now cost an average of N1.9million to N2.2million depending airline.
For instance a Lagos to France economy class ticket on British Airways cost about $2,500, using the N770 exchange rate to a dollar, this cost about N1.92million.
Lagos to London economy class ticket on British Airways cost about $2,800 which amounts to about N2.15million.
Lagos to London economy class ticket on Qatar Airways cost around $2,900, which amounts to about N2.23million
Also an economy class ticket from Lagos to the United States which cost about N1.7million a month ago is currently pricing between N2.2million and N2. 6million.
An economy class ticket from Lagos to the United States on Delta Airlines cost about N2.4m. The same ticket on Lufthansa and Qatar Airways cost around N2.6million.
A Business class ticket from Lagos to London, Lagos to France and most European countries which cost around N2 million, now cost an average about N2.9m to N3.4million.
A Business class ticket from Lagos to London on Lufthansa Airline cost about N2.9mIllion and N3.4million on Qatar Airways.
Also a Business class ticket from Lagos to the United States which cost an average of N2.4million a month ago now cost about N4.9 million on Qatar Airways and N6.9 million on Ethiopian airlines. Air Maroc appears to have the cheapest ticket on this route costing about N2.4million.
The cost of airfares from Nigeria to various destinations has seen a sharp rise since the exchange rate for ticket pricing hit over N760/$,
The development came a few days after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) floated the naira and directed commercial banks to sell foreign exchange at market-determined rates.
The CBN said all forex windows should be collapsed into the Investors &Exporters Window.
Days after the decision, the exchange rate has since fluctuated on the International Air Transport Association (IATA) platform from 663.04/$ to now N770/$.
Nigerian travellers have quickly had to respond to the increase by suspending their travel plans to Europe and the United States.
“Never have tickets been sold so expensive in Nigeria before. How can I buy a Lagos to London ticket for over N2 million? This is more than just a rise. It is exorbitant and I’m sure the average traveller can’t afford this at this time when we have an economic downturn,” Philip Onuh told BusinessDay.
Onuh said he had plans to visit his family next month in New York but he has had to suspend his travel plans as a result of the rise in tickets.
“I could not afford to pay tickets for my family to come over to Nigeria for summer because airlines had blocked all their low ticket prices on their websites, making the cost of fares high. So I planned to go and see them instead to reduce the expenditure on travel. However, to my greatest surprise, when I was ready to book my ticket, I found out tickets had again risen to N2.4 million in the United States. So I just have to suspend plans to travel for now,” he explained.
John Effiong, another traveller told BusinessDay that he had plans to travel to France with his family during his annual leave in two months’ time but had to cancel the plans because he could not afford the new cost for airfares.
Effiong however said he would now be travelling to Egypt as an alternative because the cost of travelling to Egypt is about three times lower than what he would have spent on the cost of travel to France.
“My travel agent had advised that Egypt can be another option instead of suspending our travel plans because there are still low fares to the North African country and its visa policy is quite flexible.
“With Schengen, UK, US or Canada visa, people can travel to Egypt and get their visa on arrival. My family members all have Schengen visas and this just makes things easy for us. We get to spend less on travel and ease of visa makes it more attractive,” he said.
Since last year, foreign airlines operating in Nigeria blocked low ticket inventories (cheap tickets), leaving high inventories (costly tickets) to be sold in naira only, while the low ticket inventories on most airlines’ websites could only be bought with dollar cards only.
This was in a bid to cushion the effect of their trapped funds in Nigeria which kept rising.
While airlines gradually opened up low ticket inventories which they had blocked, as the Central Bank of Nigeria released their trapped funds in trickles, BusinessDay’s investigations show that high ticket inventories were still more on the websites, making ticket prices high.
Susan Akporiaye, the President of the National Association of Travel Agents of Nigeria, (NANTA) told BusinessDay that the reduction in summer travels has been there since the restriction of inventories on the airlines’ website.
Akporiaye however noted that the new dollar rate policy has worsened the situation because ticket prices are very high that even corporate travels are now affected.
“This is not how summer usually is. We had this same experience last year summer because of the inventory restrictions. Already, the inventories have still not been released yet. So, even with the new dollar rate unification, there is no difference and it is even worse because the highest economy class ticket for Lagos to the United States when the exchange rate was about N460 to a dollar was N1.9million but now at over N760 to a dollar, ticket prices are between N2.5million to N3.2million.
“This is why we are talking to the airlines. The rate of exchange is very high now. What airlines can do so they don’t punish passengers is to release the lower fares. If the lower fares are released, at least people will be able to get tickets of N700,000,” the NANTA president said.
She said the new exchange rate policy has further reduced ticket sales.
“Before now, it was only on the naira platform that we had the highest fares but on the dollar platform, the lower fares were still there. So people could just go to the black market and buy dollars. But now, everyone is feeling it.
“So, there is not much difference between buying tickets in dollars and buying tickets in naira anymore. The policy has unified the whole system. So, whether you buy the tickets in dollars or in naira, there is no difference. The only thing that the airlines have done to help the travel agency community is that they have given us a dollar platform too. So people don’t have to go online anymore. We can also service them,” Akporiaye said.
She said the travel agents depended on corporates before now because they could afford the high ticket costs but now, the corporates are also cancelling their travel plans.
Speaking on travels to other African countries, the NANTA president said
Nigerians are now beginning to open their minds to exploring destinations in Africa.
“People are still travelling to South Africa despite the visa issues and the visa online platform that has been opened up is helping too so that people can just do their online applications and travel.
“Other African countries opening up are Namibia, Kenya and Botswana. Egypt had been open since Dubai suspended flights into Nigeria. The Egyptians were very smart. They introduced some new innovations in their visa policy which really helped because Egypt was an alternative for Nigerians but the visa was the problem because people had to wait for almost three months for their visas. But this is no longer the case anymore.
“Egypt now has visa on arrival for people that have either a Schengen, UK, US or Canada visa. If you have any of these visas, no need to go to the embassy. Just jump on the plane and you get your visa-on-arrival which is 50 dollars. This has helped a lot. Some travellers travelling to the US, now stop over at Cairo for a few days just to have fun, then proceed to the US because of the ease of visa on arrival,” she explained.
She also mentioned that Rwanda is also very easy for Nigerians because it doesn’t require a visa, adding that more Nigeria has seized this opportunity to do business and go on holidays in Rwanda.
She said most African airlines still sell lower ticket fares.