No Respite On Foreign Airlines’ Exploitative Fares

Nigerians are said to be paying the highest travel fares in the world. The route is said to produce a high yield. Government is helpless, the country lacks strong indigenous carriers to compete with their counterparts with Nigerians at the mercy of foreign airlines’, writes WOLE SHADARE

 

Long in coming

Many saw it coming. The airlines and their representative body, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned of an impending hike in international airfares. They had warned that the carriers could be forced to remove lower fare inventories and be replaced by higher fares. The government did not listen.

Nigerian air travelers are witnessing some of the worse fare disparity in the world and the citizens are bearing these huge costs. The least airfare on an economy class cabin to London from Lagos for example goes for N900, 000. The fares are outrageous, to say the least. The fares could even rise to N1.5 million ($3, 300) and N2 million ($4, 400) depending on the time of purchase.

A return ticket on a trip to London to Lagos on Air France sighted by Aviation Metric shows a ridiculous fair of $4, 221.40.

Mindless

This fare and some others are described as outrageous. It cost even more than a Business Class ticket cost a few months ago while Business class fare on many six-hour flights to virtually all the international carriers is as high as $10, 000 and $12, 000.

The carriers had in the wake of their $465 million funds trapped in Nigeria introduced high and mindless fares. In the heart of the crisis, some international carriers like Emirates had issued a statement to quit Nigeria early this month. Many others were secretly planning their exit or reducing capacity on the route.

The pressure from the carriers and the huge implication it was having on the country’s image were enormous. The situation forced the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to quickly release $265 million remaining a balance of $200 million with the promise to release the balance ‘soon’.

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It is regrettable that the gesture only emboldened foreign airlines to visit the Nigerian public with the most exploitative response in the name of protecting their businesses.

Airlines

Dashed hope

That piece of good news was supposed to bring good news and ensure that travelers enjoy competitive fares that would be affordable for many travelers without having to spend a fortune to travel for medical treatment, studies, visiting families, loved ones, and business appointments.

In summary, the airlines are seriously cashing out on the Nigerian routes, having a field day, and at the mercy of hapless citizens.

Even threats and warnings by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika to the carriers of the exploitative fares charged on the route and the selling of tickets in dollars had not deterred the carriers who experts said to carry on as if they are doing the people a favour.

Travel experts confirmed that the airlines over the years have been allowed to carry on with exploitative fares without calling them to order or query the discriminatory fares charged Nigerians amid some of the worse services some of them subject Nigerian travelers to.

Sirika talks tough

The Minister said, “Reports are reaching us that some of the airlines are refusing to sell tickets in naira. That is a violation of our local laws, they will not be allowed. The high and the mighty amongst them will be sanctioned if they’re caught doing that.

Aviation Minister, Senator Hadi Sirika

“NCAA has been directed to swing into action and once we find any airline violating this, we will definitely deal with them. Also, they blocked the travel agents from access. They also made only the expensive tickets available and so on and so forth.

“Our regulators are not sleeping; we have a very vibrant Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority. Once they find any airline guilty, that airline will be dealt with because we need to protect our people. It is according to our agreements, to what we have signed and this is according to international convention.

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“So, going forward, they should desist from doing things that are outside of the law. They should also desist from writing to us and putting things on social media. They should go through diplomatic channels if they want a response from the federal government.”

Concerned by the action of foreign airlines to rip off travelers in the name of blocked funds, the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agents (NANTA) met penultimate week to condemn their action describing it as nothing short of wickedness.

Experts’ views

President of NANTA, Mrs. Susan Akporiaye noted that airfares have further spiked, with six-hour economy class tickets that erstwhile sold for N300, 000 now selling above N1.5 million, adding that the airlines have left only the highest inventories open to bookings in Nigeria.

“As usual with them, their response which we could describe as ‘High Fare Pandemic’, is solely targeted at Nigeria and Nigerians, and cannot be seen anywhere in Africa even in countries where they also have their funds being trapped’

Foreign airlines in flight

“It is sad that Nigerians have to buy tickets to the tune of N3 to N4 million and be charged as high as N1 million to change travel dates even on tickets bought before this crisis began. This is unacceptable, exploitative, and hostile to the survival of the Nigerian aviation downstream sector and to which we call for sanity and return to the best inventory practices and deployment,” Akporiaye said.

she denied that airlines were selling in hard currency, saying, “Airlines are still selling in Naira but at the highest rates possible. But the airlines only wanted more engagement that we have not seen from the Federal Government, to assure the business partners and stabilise the situation,” she said.

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First Vice President for NANTA Lagos Zone, Yinka Folami, added that Nigerians are badly hit by the response from the foreign airlines, and are seeking succor from the government.

Folami noted that Nigerians paying high premiums would mean that more funds the foreign airlines are getting trapped in the country, with the likelihood of hitting $1 billion by November.

He said: “Despite the issues at stake, Nigeria remains a high net worth destination for the airlines to do business. Clearly, we have a global crisis on our hands and it is not peculiar to Nigeria. But all stakeholders need to come together and show transparency to build trust. That way, there will be concessions here and there. It is not in the interest of the country that we are paying higher to travel. Travel agencies are already closing down and people are losing jobs.

African airlines

“Our business is on the verge of total collapse and our staff, with families and at these trying times, may be forced into the streets. We request that the foreign airlines pause and have a rethink on these unnecessary measures that we find exploitative; restore inventories across the board and think of the good days when they flew in and out of Nigeria, enjoying the best patronage from us and the Nigerian traveling public,” Folami said.

Last line

No matter the reason adduced for the exploitative fares in the name of the accusation of blocked funds, it is very expedient for the Federal Government through the NCAA to hold an urgent stakeholders’ meeting with all the foreign airlines in Nigeria with a view to finding a lasting solution to the problem.

Wole Shadare