Why Air Travel is so Expensive in Africa

by Ronnie Afema
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Have you ever wondered why flying within Africa is more costly than out of Africa? Well, we all have, at a certain point got bothered by the appallingly hiked air ticket fares in this region!

Air transport is considered a privilege reserved for the affluent in Africa. This reminds many of an almost similarly ridiculous situation in the early 90s when mobile phones were getting on the scene and could only be afforded by the rich minority.

Telephone companies saw to it that the gadgets’ prices remained out of pocket reach by the poor. Just like communication, transport is a basic need for all, and having access to the different mediums of operation should be highly inclusive.

Unfortunately, in Africa, you will more often than not, meet people boosting about traveling by air! To some, “stepping in a plane” is only a dream. The necessity to save a life or conduct business does not help at all if one cannot raise the bundles of money needed to acquire an air ticket. For today, let’s not venture into the lengthy process involved in going through the airport procedures in Africa. You will think it is impossible to fly around Africa yet to the rich and patient, it happens!

Shocking Facts about Air travel in Africa.

Aviation is considered a luxury in Africa. Taxes of all sorts are unapologetically heaped on the passengers. Many sovereign African states are hesitant to implement open sky policies. Taxes on airline operations range from Common user terminal and jetway charges to noise, landing, parking, passenger bus, counter firefighting, and lighting! The total cost is then projected to the individual passengers by increasing the air ticket prices. The African Airlines Association report in 2021 indicated that passengers in Africa pay around $50 in taxes as opposed to $30.25 in Europe and $ 29.65 in the Middle East for the same flight hours.

There is poor connectivity in some African regions. Negotiations are still underway for passengers to have direct flights from Kinshasa in Congo to Lagos, Nigeria for example. Note that intra-African flights are 45% more expensive than flights anywhere across the globe. This consequently makes the demand for air travel low. Much as Africa has 12% of the world’s population, by 2014, it was only accounting for 1% of the global Air traffic and 2% pre-pandemic. Some African passengers hold flying as the last option and this explains the various last-minute struggles to acquire express passports, visas, and air tickets. Organizing such flights is usually much more expensive. Early bird tickets tend to be cheaper. Those in emergencies have to gird their loin cloths to fly to their destinations say from Entebbe to Mombasa (916 km), the flight cost will be up to $200. This is roughly 8 times the cost of flying the same distance in Europe. The highest seasons of the year are June-July and the cheapest, February.

The way out

Governments should cut these aviation taxes to boost trade and tourism. They can reap from the revenue collected here. This will make African airlines more competitive against foreign operators.

Option two is one new revolutionary black swan that is squawking the airline industry. Frequent flyers can now book several flights within three months, six months, nine months, or twelve months’ window. If they can pay at least 25% of their tickets as a commitment, they will be good to go and can clear the rest of the payments as they fly. Option town is a game changer for frequent flyers. It is the trend and all airlines are jumping onto the bandwagon. Passengers can now log into the option town website and get domestic flights for as low as $41 and international flights at $249. It has taken Europe by storm! There are many other websites you can use to source cheap fares like “Sky Scanner” and “lastminute.com”

There is an interesting flight club that can obtain passengers the cheapest fares on any route. Jack’s flight club is the thing!! Subscribe to it for only $40 per year and fly cheap. It has sophisticated software algorithms that dig into air reservation ion systems for the cheapest fare deals. You don’t want to miss that.

Only google when the search is in an incognito setting to leave no search history and there will be no cookies. Airlines’ websites have software to detect that you are frequently searching for fares and they will automatically offer you higher fares on sensing desperation.

Finally, airlines in Africa should consider having as many passengers as possible to harvest from economies of scale. Making air travel seem a secretary-like angelic privilege where the deities grace the rich wings they have denied the poor is laughable. It even explains the lag in recovery of the aviation business from the fangs of the Covid pandemic in Africa. Airlines will mint more money by flying smaller aircrafts on thin routes too. It’s called alternative thinking!


Featured image: @aviator_nic / Airspace Africa

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