Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Inter-African flights: why do they cost so much?

07.02.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Flying from one African country to another can be a trial for those who are not very patient, because of to its tedious and frustrating nature. This is due to the many transits, long hours spent in airports waiting for next flight, the unsafe nature of flights and most of all the huge sums of money paid for these flights.
With the short distances between Africa capitals, flights are normally supposed to be very affordable, like is the case in Europe and America. Unfortunate this is not the reality in Africa, as a flight from Douala to Brazzaville is two hundred and fifty thousand (250,000) fcfa for a distance of 687 miles while a flight from Paris to London cost one hundred (100) euro, equivalent to sixty five thousand four hundred and seventy five (65,475) fcfa.

WHY ARE THESE FLIGHTS SO EXPENSIVE?

Stringent regulatory and legal barriers

One can start by accusing the regulatory and legal barriers surrounding the aviation business in Africa. Before launching a new aviation route between two or more African countries, an airline needs to obtain clearance from all countries concerned, which can be very costly and take months or even years.

In the Yamoussoukro Decision of 1988, forty four African nations signed an agreement to promote competitive markets and limit regulatory barriers. Unfortunately, only few countries have executed the decisions of the agreement while other countries still hold tight to their protectionist tendencies by limiting access to their airspace by other African countries, especially Uganda and Nigeria.

These regulatory hitches make it difficult for Airlines to fly across Africa, so those who are able to acquire these new routes find a way to compensate their spending and the passengers suffer for it.

High tax rates

The exorbitant taxes related to aviation also contribute greatly to the high rate of inter-African flights. These high taxes make it very difficult for aviation companies to cover cost. For example the taxes on aviation fuel in Africa are two times higher than the world rates. A gallon of fuel; that is 4 litres, cost 3.78 dollars in Africa, which is way beyond the 1.40 dollars world average. An Airbus A320 needs approximately 24,230 litres of fuel, which implies that in Africa, an airline using Airbus A320 is expected to spend approximately 22,897.35 dollars on fuel alone. This coupled with taxes levied on passengers only aggravate the situation of high flight prices. This also makes it difficult for aviation companies to make any significant return on investment.

Limited demand

This is another reason for the high cost of inter-African flights. Given that Africa has about 12% of the world’s population, it is unfortunate that it accounts for only 6% of the world’s air traffic. Many passengers prefer travelling with foreign airlines which is very detrimental to African airlines that have to make do with the few customers they have. As a result, most airlines prefer to use smaller aircrafts for destinations with low demand. Those travelling to these areas incur more cost as they have to make up for the expenditures of the airlines.

 AFRICA’S TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE IS BELOW STANDARD

African countries do not have many roads or railway infrastructure links, and the existing ones are falling apart. As a result flying remains the only option for those travelling from one African city to another. Unfortunately, Africa lacks large airports, maintenance facilities or training facilities. They depend on foreign aid for maintenance and training of their personnel or importing qualified personnel from developed countries which only contribute in fueling the operation cost.

Also many African airlines start on low a budget, which makes it difficult for them to acquire good quality infrastructure and aircrafts. They tend to use second, third or even fourth hand aircrafts and equipment, which pose great security problems. It is worth noting that African airlines account for some of the most disastrous flight and security accidents in the world, due to the outdated nature of their aircrafts.

In this light, African aviation companies that manage to meet up with world standards have outrageous prices.

Numerous stops and transits

It is sometimes difficult to have direct flights from one African country to another. These stops and transits only inflate cost especially for passengers. Take for example, for people flying from Cameroon to Congo, a direct flight equals less time spent on transits and relatively cheaper tickets. Unfortunately, this is never the case, as passengers flying with Asky Airline from Cameroon to Congo have to stop in Lome, Togo before boarding to Brazzaville, Congo. To get to Burundi from Uganda, one has to go through Kenya and Rwanda. These stops not only increase distances, they also time and cost.

Given that the African population is increasing drastically, its working population is expected to reach 1.25 billion by 2050. This implies an increase in demand for air travels. This means that the aviation companies in Africa have a lot of work to do to meet up with the forthcoming increase in demand; else foreign companies will continue to dominate the market. Improving the aviation industry in Africa can go a long way to improve the economic situation of the continent.

For now, Africans have no other choice than to pay what they are charged, while waiting that things get better in the nearest future.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

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