By Job Osazuwa
Concerned Nigerians have tasked the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to fix the minimum fare chargeable by airlines in the country, following recent unnecessary rivalry that could endanger the passengers’ lives.
On the recent reduction of fares on Lagos-Owerri, Lagos-Calabar and Lagos-Enugu routes by some airlines to between N11, 000 and N12, 000, a frequent air traveler, Mr. Samuel Babatunde, warned that the development could compromise the safety of passengers. According to him, there is no doubt that airlines in the country were operating under very difficult circumstances, a situation, which was worsened by the foreign exchange and aviation fuel crises that further push up operational costs of airlines.
He expressed shock that some of the airline operators could resort to charging ridiculous low fares just to outdo one another and he called on appropriate authorities to ensure sanity in the system.
In his words: “Although, this should normally be something the flying public should be happy about, the danger this practice poses to the safety of passengers cannot be wished away. How can an airline charge N11, 000 for a trip from Lagos to Owerri without compromising passengers’ safety?
“I think NCAA should urgently look at the issue and set the minimum fares on the different routes to avoid a return to the era of plane crashes in the country. While the cut in fares may be good, passengers’ safety should not be compromised under any guise.”
Alsocontributing, Aliyu Saleh, a businessman, said it was difficult to explain why some airlines decided to cut their fares at a time flyers were expecting an increment because of the nation’s economic challenges and the rising operational costs of airlines.
“There is no way an airline would charge fares as low as N11, 000 and N12, 000 for routes such as Lagos-Owerri without compromising passengers’ safety. Airlines should not in the name of competition risk the lives of flyers. I don’t see how the airlines can maintain their planes with these unbelievably low fares,” he insisted.
Mr. Chike Ogbonna, however, dismissed the low fares charged by the airlines, saying the practice was fraudulent. He said some of the airlines had made it impossible for passengers to take advantage of the low fares they claimed they were charging.
His words: “The claim of low fares by some airlines in the country is only a gimmick to attract customers. Most of the time, it is difficult for majority of passengers to book at these ridiculous low fares. For me, NCAA should immediately step in to check the trend.
“I also agree that there is no way an airline will charge between N11, 000 and N12, 000 for a flight from Lagos to Owerri and still be able to mobilise enough resources to maintain its planes. The regulatory authorities must ensure that this fraudulent practice does not endanger the lives of the people.”
Lending his voice, a pilot, Capt Rwang Pam of Xejet Limited said: “There is a chance that if you are cutting down costs and you don’t have enough money, it will affect first safety and not so much of security because security.
“It is quite possible that safety will be compromised when fares are reduced so low unless the airline responsible for lowering the ticket prices have prepared a war-chest for a price conflict. In this case, they will make sure that they have enough cash to be run the routes for the next three months. They may even charge N9000 per person even on the day of flight, and because they will get customers from other airlines who will be flying with a smaller number of passengers.
If you are ready for a price war, you lower your prices and be ready to make losses because you have borrowed money from the bank.”