A joint technical committee to investigate the recent alleged unanimous hike in airfares by domestic airlines and other consumer complaints in the aviation sector is to be inaugurated today (Thursday) barring unforeseen circumstances.
It was gathered on Wednesday that the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission in partnership with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority would inaugurate the committee in Abuja.
The PUNCH exclusively reported on Wednesday that the Federal Government had commenced investigations into the alleged collusion by domestic airlines to fix airfares on all domestic routes.
Price-fixing is a practice whereby rival companies come to an illicit agreement not to sell goods or services below a certain price.
The report revealed that efforts were currently ongoing to unravel reasons for the sudden hike in airfares by all domestic carriers, as the airlines, aside from Green Africa Airways, raised the airfare for a one-hour flight in economy class to as high as N50,000.
This indicated a jump of over 60 per cent, considering the fact that airfares for such tickets were between N26,000 and N30,000 a few weeks ago.
But a notice sighted in Abuja on Wednesday showed that the government through its agencies, FCCPC and NCAA, had decided to investigate the airfares hike as well as other concerns in the aviation industry.
The notice, which was made available to our correspondent, read in part, “The Executive Vice Chairman, FCCPC, Babatunde Irukera, and the Director-General of the NCAA, Capt. Musa Shuaibu Nuhu, will both be inaugurating a joint technical committee that will be primarily aimed at addressing the numerous consumer issues in the aviation sector.”
In an email sighted on Tuesday, which was allegedly sent by a domestic carrier to its travel agents, the airline stated that all airlines had effected the same increase in airfares.
Industry observers argued that the email and other indications suggested that the airfare hike was an unanimous decision by domestic carriers to engage in price-fixing.
Irukera had told our correspondent on Tuesday that the FCCPC was aware of the latest concern in the aviation sector, as he explained that the commission had commenced investigations into the issues raised by both passengers and other concerned observers.
Airline operators deny alleged collusion to fix fares
Meanwhile, domestic airlines under the aegis of the Airline Operators of Nigeria have denied the allegation of colluding to fix airfares as increasing criticism continues to trail their recent hikes in fares across the country.
The Vice President, AON, Allen Onyema, who spoke during a press conference in Lagos on Wednesday, said, “Recently, we have seen in the news that we were being accused of raising fares. Some people even said we are a cartel. We want to make bold to say that airlines of Nigeria never got together to increase their base fares. It never happened.
“I want to say something here, whether you believe it or not, the N50,000 you are seeing in our inventory has always been there. In the past five years, the N50,000 fare has always been there. During the Christmas season, you noticed that fares went up to N60,000.
‘Airlines didn’t come together to decide that. It’s a matter of you working out your unit cost per seat of your operations. During those periods, you notice that there are areas you fly into full, and you will be coming out with zero passengers. So, airlines on their own fix their prices, individually, to at least get their costs covered.”
The AON leader also rejected the multiple designations given to some foreign airlines flying in Nigeria.
“The AON objects very seriously to the multiple designations being given to foreign airlines into our nation, especially the multiple designations given to Qatar Airways and Ethiopian Airlines.”
Article first published on the Punch Website