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There are indications that foreign airlines operating to Nigeria are considering releasing cheaper ticket inventories following the release of the airlines’ trapped funds by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
A top official of the National Association Nigerian Travel Agency (NANTA) who disclosed this to Aviation Metric said the group has held a strategic meeting with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) with a view to the airlines opening their lower ticket inventory for passengers from Nigeria.
This is coming as the CBN had reached out to commercial Banks to release $600 million belonging to the airlines trapped in their various financial institutions.
The Apex Bank had ordered Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) to sell their excess dollar stock latest February 1, 2024, as part of moves to stabilise the nation’s volatile exchange rate.
The CBN also warned lenders against hoarding excess foreign currencies for profit. The warning not a few believe could quicken the receipt of the carriers’ money which was caused primarily by the delay of the Banks to sell their excess dollars to airlines and other companies in need of Forex.
Foreign carriers in the heat of the controversy over their trapped funds had in July 2022 removed the lowest base fare from their price inventory and replaced it with higher ones to bypass the Central Bank and buy foreign currency in the parallel market.
The action technically made airfares on international routes to be expensive. What the airlines simply was to close the lower airfare inventory by going to the cabin category on the same economy seats which are higher by as much as between 30 and 60 percent of what the fares should normally be.
The national president of NANTA, Mrs. Susan Akporiaye had last week said the group viewed further restriction of lower inventory as excessive, profiteering, and unsupportive of the Nigerian government/market in the face of our economic challenges.
Nigerians pay more than normal fares from Lagos to London for instance; the same equidistance from Accra-London. The situation has forced more people to travel overseas through Accra, Ghana, Lome, Togo Cotonou, Benin Republic, and others where fares are more than 50% cheaper than what the airlines are offering in Nigeria.
NANTA, she reiterated therefore holds a firm position that, with ROE at NGN 1421 and backlogs cleared by CBN, airlines have no further reason and justification to restrict inventory in the Nigerian market.
“We at NANTA view further restriction of lower inventory as excessive, profiteering, and unsupportive of the Nigerian Government/market in the face of our economic challenges
Akporiaye disclosed that NANTA had requested IATA to prevail on all airlines operating in the Nigeria market to release all lower inventories by February 2, 2024, reminding IATA that NANTA was cooperative and collaborative when the request was made by IATA.
She said, “Anything short of full release of inventory by all airlines is now unexplainable. We view that there is more to the actions of airlines in our market.”
She made NANTA’s position clear to IATA that if full inventories are not released by all airlines by February 2, 2024, NANTA would address a world press conference next week, “On the unexplainable, unreasonable, unjustifiable, and unsupportive actions of airlines in the Nigeria market. This press conference would be followed by sustained social media campaigns and open letters to the government and the Nigerian travelling public.”
“Dear members, we have been patient, please rest assured that leadership is focused on the issues and the discomfort to our businesses. At this point, the release of lower inventories is not negotiable, and that is where we would stand. We are optimistic that we will achieve this, and promise to give further updates,” she added.
“CBN reached out to NANTA leadership exactly one week ago, explaining the economic issues and urging NANTA to appeal to members for patience. At this point, the National President asked the CBN Deputy Governor to permit her to join IATA on the call. He agreed and IATA was joined.”