Nigerian travelers are experiencing significantly higher international airfares compared to their counterparts in neighboring countries. Despite the high demand for travel, airfares from Nigeria remain much more expensive. For instance, a recent viral social media post highlighted that a Lagos to London flight costs $1,636 while the same route from Cotonou to London costs only $469.
The disparity is attributed to factors such as demand and supply dynamics and Nigeria’s lack of capacity for reciprocity. The Lagos-London route is popular among Nigerians for business, education, and immigration purposes. Turkish Airlines offers the most expensive tickets, ranging from $1,432 to $3,534 for the Lagos-London flight. In comparison, the same flight from Cotonou costs between $475 and $601, and from Accra to London, it costs $701.
The fare from Niamey, Niger Republic, to London is $918. The significant difference in fares highlights the higher costs Nigerian travelers face on this route compared to neighboring countries. On Turkish Airlines, the fare for Accra to London is $701, while from Niamey, Niger Republic, to London, it costs $918. Additionally, the Lagos-Amsterdam route on Turkish Airlines is priced at $1,797, whereas the same route from Accra is $751.
British Airways offers a one-way economy ticket from Lagos to London for 2,698 pounds or N2.7 million (at an exchange rate of N957). The Accra-London route costs 2,416 pounds or N2.4 million (35,958 GHC). Ethiopian Airlines’ lowest fare for a Lagos-London ticket is N941,930, while the highest is N1,552,349 at the time of checking.
Unfortunately, there was no available British Airways flight from Cotonou for July.
Compared to Cotonou, the Lagos-London ticket is higher, with fares as low as N603,900 for the Cotonou-London route, which takes a longer time. Accra-London on Ethiopian Airlines costs N673,225, while Lome, Togo, and Monrovia, Liberia also offer cheaper options. Rwanda Air’s fare stands at N2,013,037.
Stakeholders attribute the higher international flight ticket prices in Nigeria to factors such as the business environment, naira depreciation, and trapped funds. The absence of Nigerian carriers on European routes worsens the principle of demand and supply, further affecting air travelers.
The president of NANTA, Mrs. Susan Akporiaye, explained that comparing Nigeria’s airfares to neighboring countries would be unfair due to the economic situation and exchange rate differences. She noted that airlines are not offering lower fares due to the trapped funds and recalled previous efforts by travel agencies to address expensive fares charged by foreign airlines, but no action was taken by the National Assembly.
Mrs. Akporiaye emphasized that Nigeria’s fares have historically been higher than in neighboring countries, even before the current crisis. She said a fair comparison of airfares can only be made when things return to normal. She acknowledged that prices in Nigeria have historically been higher, citing the law of supply and demand as the airlines’ explanation. Traveling from Nigeria is in high demand, leading to higher prices compared to other countries like Accra.
Many Nigerians planning to travel to the UK, US, Canada, and other countries are struggling with expensive tickets. Limited low-fare inventories for July, August, and September have already been fully booked. Travelers are facing exorbitant ticket prices, with some resorting to selling their assets to afford airfares. Despite the exchange rate being cited as a reason for high fares, there is no significant difference between the naira and CFA exchange rates.
Some passengers are considering traveling from neighboring countries like Cotonou, where ticket prices are lower. As of July 21, 2023, one dollar exchanged at CFA 588.96 West African, equivalent to N791.01, and for Ghana Cedis, one dollar equaled 11.67, which is N790.74. Observers question whether the ease of doing business justifies the significant difference in airfare prices.
Ghana ranked highest in ease of doing business in West Africa in a 2019 score, while Nigeria scored 52.89. The founding partner/executive director of General Sales and Solution Management Limited (GSSM), an aviation consultancy firm, Babatunde Adeniji argued that comparing ticket prices between Cotonou and Nigeria is an unbalanced comparison, as the cost of doing business in the two countries differs significantly.
He emphasized the importance of managing exchange rate risks for airlines to achieve higher rewards. The solution to high airfares for Nigerian routes lies in Nigerian carriers participating in the market. Currently, no Nigerian carrier operates to European routes, especially the lucrative London route. The chairman of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema, expressed frustration over starting a London route, which he intended to use to reduce fares.
The secretary-general of the Aviation Roundtable and Safety Initiative, Mr. Olumide Ohunayo, emphasized that the Nigerian government should provide full diplomatic support through the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Aviation, and Justice to Nigerian carriers operating international routes. He stressed the need for support regardless of whether the airline is government-owned or private, suggesting that chartered airlines could represent Nigerians if scheduled airlines cannot start the London route.
The high airfares in Nigeria are attributed to the challenging operating environment, according to aviation consultant Captain Ibrahim Mshelia. He cited dilapidated infrastructure, unfriendly processes, and excessive charges for services as factors leading to increased costs for visiting airlines, which they then pass on to travelers.
Group Captain John Ojikutu suggested finding ways to reduce the value of the naira against the dollar to lower airfares, similar to the situation in the 1980s and 1990s when airfares were more affordable. He noted that the cost of imported fuel also contributes to the overall expenses for airlines.
He highlighted security and fuel management as additional cost factors for foreign airlines operating in Nigeria. He mentioned secondary security screening and fuel contamination issues faced by domestic airlines, which foreign airlines manage at an extra cost. Ojikutu also questioned the discrepancy in how repatriation of earnings is handled for Nigerian companies like MTN compared to foreign airlines.
The president of NANTA, Mrs. Susan Akporiaye, reiterated that comparing airfares between Nigeria and neighboring countries would be unfair due to the differing economic situations. She noted that airlines were not offering lower tickets because of trapped funds. Five years ago, travel agencies presented their concerns about expensive fares charged by foreign airlines to the National Assembly, urging the enactment of laws to align fares with neighboring countries, but no action was taken.
She emphasized that comparing airfares between Nigeria and Cotonou would be unfair due to the crisis in the Nigerian market and the current high exchange rate. Even before the crisis, Nigerian fares were higher than in other places. She recalled efforts made with lawmakers to address the issue in the past, but no action was taken.
Akporiaye suggested that a fair comparison could only be made when the situation returns to normal. She explained that Nigeria’s higher airfares are attributed to the law of supply and demand, as traveling is in high demand in the country. Thus, the prices in Nigeria cannot be the same as in Accra.