Airlines Are Sending Ticket Prices to the Moon. Can They Do That?

February 25, 2022

There’s a long list of things that can annoy you about flying in Nigeria.

If your flight is not delayed for 25 hours, you can miss it because the announcer is speaking in a Lekki-British accent.

It’s even possible that your flight is on-time and takes you to Abuja, but your luggage somehow ends up in Zamfara.

As if all that was not enough, airline operators must have jumped on a secret WhatsApp group recently and decided to increase the price of flight tickets.

Flight ticket prices are going up in Nigeria

In this economy?

All of the airlines have set their minimum economy class tickets for a one-hour flight at N50,000.

The minimum rate just a few weeks ago fell between N26,000 and N30,000.

Here’s why this is unhinged behaviour

One airline waking up one morning to jack up its base ticket price by 66% is crazy. If two airlines do it at the same time, we can even call it a crazy coincidence.

But almost all airlines jacking up their prices that much immediately sets off the alarms.

Flight ticket prices are going up in Nigeria

So these airlines that are supposed to be competitors got together and decided to fix new prices.

This disrupts the competitive spirit of market forces because the flow here is as unnatural as ponmo slices inside shawarma.

It’s why a lot of Nigerians have been referring to this price-fixing as cartel behaviour, because it’s the only theory that makes sense.

Why did this happen?

Airline operators have been complaining for some time about difficulties with their operations.

A major problem is the fluctuation in the foreign exchange rate, and their inability to access it at the official window.

They also recently complained that aviation fuel has gone up from ₦190 per litre in February 2021 to between ₦410 and ₦429 per litre now.

Also, the fuel is in short supply, which means you currently have one thing in common with an airplane as you read this from a fuel queue.

Airline operators have complained of operating in a hostile environment that is frustrating their businesses.

And they have decided that since they are being squeezed by Nigeria, they will squeeze Nigerians.

Flight ticket prices are going up in Nigeria

Who will check them?

The only winner here is airline operators, so pretty much everyone else is pissed.

This is why many people have called on the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) to step in.

The FCCPC’s role is basically to ensure everyone in the market plays fair.

More than anything, they ensure that regular customers, like those that pay for flight tickets, are not cheated.

This means airlines collectively fixing prices is a red flag.

And this is how Nigerians feel about it:

Flight ticket prices are going up and Nigerians don't like it.

FCCPC’s CEO, Babatunde Irukera, has already announced that investigations have commenced into the price hike, but there’s no credible evidence to prove anything.

The summary of his public engagement on the topic is that it smells, looks and tastes like dodo, but there’s no evidence that the dodo exists.

In one of his tweets on the subject, he said, “The only validation is we all agree; that the sequence of action demonstrates coordination. That’s the easy part. Evidence to establish it is the work. A corpse is evidence of death, proving it was murder is the real work, not concluding there was a death.”

What does that mean?

The House of Representatives is also investigating the high charges by the airline operators.

But the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) which regulates the industry has already ruled out any intervention.

Flight ticket prices are deregulated and determined by market forces, so the agency has washed its hands off this business.

But since the NCAA is also considering a major review of operating licence fees and other charges for the same domestic airlines, you can understand why they’re eager to shut up.

Will they get away with it?

What goes up in Nigeria never comes down, so we wouldn’t place any bets on these flight ticket prices returning to where they came.

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