Foreign airlines’ airfares exploitative, bloating stuck funds, says NANTA
Travel agencies, yesterday, raised the alarm over the continuous hike in the cost of airfares currently charged by foreign airlines, describing those rates as exploitative of the Nigerian market.
The operators, under the aegis of National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), said besides squeezing travellers to pay over 200 per cent more, higher inventories is bloating the trapped fund despite efforts to defray the backlog.
Besides, The Guardian has learnt that the Federal Government has only released a part of the promised $265 million funds, with foreign airlines receiving bits of their expectations.
Though government pledged release of $265 million out of the $465 million, some airlines got 25 per cent of their due, some got less while others got nothing yet.
President of NANTA, Susan Akporiaye, told reporters that the unrepatriated fund scenario was regrettable and the entire travel operators shared the pains of the operators.
She said though government released part of the funds to earn the commendation of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), 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.”
She noted that airfares have further spiked, with six-hour economy class tickets that erstwhile sold for N300, 000 now selling above N1.5 million, even as 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.
“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.
The body appealed to the Federal Government to intervene more proactively by engaging with all stakeholders, including CBN, Minister of Aviation, Minister of Finance, Foreign Airlines, NCAA, IATA and NANTA in a roundtable discussion.
In reaction to the minister’s threats to sanction foreign airlines selling in foreign currencies, she denied that airlines were selling in hard currency. “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.
First Vice President for NANTA Lagos Zone, Yinka Folami, added that Nigerians are badly hit by response from the foreign airlines, and are seeking succor from the government.
Folami noted that Nigerians paying high premium would mean that more funds of 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 in our hands and it is not peculiar to Nigeria. But all stakeholders need to come together, 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.
“Our business is on the verge of total collapse and our staff, with families and at this 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 board and think of the good days when they flew in and out of Nigeria, enjoying the best patronage from us and the Nigerian travelling public,” Folami said.