Stop airfares restriction, travel agents tell foreign airlines

Nigerian travel agents under the aegis of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies have asked foreign airlines operating in Nigeria to unblock cheaper airfares on their Global Distribution System in Nigeria to reduce the burden of high ticket prices on the traveling public.

The association said it was worrisome that after the release of $265m blocked funds to the foreign carriers by the Central Bank of Nigeria, they were yet to remove the restrictions placed on the ticket inventories, a development they said had made many Nigerian travelers to buy tickets at exorbitant prices.

The NANTA President, Mrs. Susan Akporiaye, made this position known at a news conference in Lagos on Thursday.

She said, “It is sad that Nigerians have to buy tickets to the tune of N3m to N4m and be charged as high as N1m to change travel dates even on tickets bought before this problem started.

“This is unacceptable, exploitative, and hostile to the survival of Nigerian aviation downstream sector and to which we call for sanity and return to the best inventory practices and deployment.”

The NANTA leader spoke barely two weeks after the CBN released $265m out of the $464m trapped funds in Nigeria.

The International Air Transport Association had advised the Federal Government of Nigeria to allow airlines to repatriate their ticket sales proceeds in order to enhance air connectivity and boost economic growth. The development made the Nigerian government to release over 50 per cent of the trapped funds in Nigeria.

Following the development, stakeholders in the travelling public expected foreign carriers operating in the country to remove the restrictions they had placed on cheaper fares on the Nigerian routes.

Sadly, airfares on the Nigerian routes have remained on the high side, a situation that has forced many Nigerians to go to neighbouring countries to fly to Europe, North America, Middle East, Asia and other destinations.

During the press conference, Akporiaye recalled how the trapped funds issue had affected the Nigerian travel sector.

She said the association made spirited efforts to ameliorate the situation.

The NANTA president said, “Indeed, the delay in the repatriation of funds belonging foreign airlines in the country, assumed an embarrassing scenario when IATA bared its fangs and labeled our country a debt-bearing nation, which brought us knocks to no end.

“As you are aware, NANTA embarked on empathy visits to all the foreign airlines to share in their pains and rob minds on engaging the government through the Ministry of Aviation and the Central Bank of Nigeria, to readily find solutions to payment and release of the trapped funds.”

She added, “In between these strangulating circumstances, the airlines withdrew lower inventories across board, selling at the highest possible openings as a way to cushion their funds being trapped.

“Amidst the challenging/exorbitant option for our clients and other travelling publics, not excluding the threat of job losses and closure of shops by most of our members, we held on to optimism that our government will respond.”

Akporiaye reiterated that the association was disappointed that the foreign carriers had yet to open better fares for the Nigerian travelling public.

She said, “Just recently, the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeri released about $265m to service this trapped funds and to which IATA hailed Nigeria for taking strategic measures to end the problem.

“Sadly, that gesture instead of breathing a return to order emboldened the foreign airlines to visit the Nigerian travelling public with most exploitative response in the name of protecting their business.

“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.”

Article first published on the Punch Website

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