International air passengers are ignoring Nigerian airports for those in neighbouring countries to connect flights to foreign destinations due to exorbitant airfares charged by foreign airlines operating in the country.
The National President, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agents, Susan Akporiaye, said Nigerians were travelling across borders in droves to connect cheaper flights to various international destinations.
Blaming the development on the unjustifiable profiteering by foreign carriers, the NANTA boss disclosed that members of the body lost between $450m and $500m in revenue in one year as a result of the drop in ticket sales.
Airfares have risen by almost 400 per cent for all international destinations as foreign airlines operating in the country blocked all low ticket inventories on their websites and have since continued to sell the highest inventories, making it difficult for passengers to buy affordable tickets.
In a bid to reduce the amount of money that would be trapped in Nigeria, the foreign airlines stopped travel agents in the country from issuing tickets emanating from other countries.
The closure of the lower inventories by the foreign airlines has made Nigerians pay as much as N3m for a one-way economy ticket and N1.8m to change travel dates.
According to NANTA, the lower inventories that are shut against Nigerians are opened in neighbouring countries like Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana, thereby, forcing Nigerians to seek cheaper flights in those countries.
Akporiaye said, “The trade rules are obnoxious, not consistent with global best practices and the fares are unjustifiably high, all in reaction to trapped funds. We at this stage have reasons to believe that there is more to it. The fares and practices are strangulating and our Nigerian regulations are not deployed. No power of authority in Nigeria is presently holding back the rampaging practices of airlines and we regret to say that NANTA members are not protected by the government and the Nigerian public.
“The implication of Nigerians crossing the borders to join international flights is obvious. We lose business because the sales won’t be attributed to any travelling agency locally. The government will lose as well the five per cent it taxes on tickets. Definitely, the ripple effect of losses will be felt by the industry.”
Akporiaye, however, noted that the foreign airlines had not increased fares, but rather shut down the lower inventories against Nigerian travellers and travel agents.
She stated, “The fares haven’t increased. Just that the lower inventories have been taken out from the Nigerian market, but they exist in those other countries. The N300,000 fare that we can’t get in Nigeria, they are getting it in neighbouring countries. Now, let’s do the mathematics, N300,000 to N3m. They won’t mind going to neighbouring countries to fly out, especially if it’s not too far and it won’t cost them much.
“We are selling our opportunities to other countries and that’s not fair because we can’t continue to give out our benefits; we are selling our rights to neighbouring countries.
“To put this in perspective, all low-fare inventories of the airlines have been deliberately blocked to our members and to this market. Airlines, even after various engagements as partners, have seem not to take such relationship or business history with NANTA into consideration, rather have gone ahead to make the market extremely difficult for members and in effect expensive for travellers.
“This now means that Nigeria is at a disadvantage since the airlines seem to have mastered the art of exploiting the forex issue to their advantage. Agencies are now forced to fold, leave the country or try to use neighbouring countries to sell to their customers. The Nigeria travel market continues to be at the losing end with the airlines being indifferent to the plight of travellers and as a body, we are left with no option but to call on the government to be more strategic, deliberate and direct in resolving this multifaceted dilemma.
“Just to be clear, in the aviation downstream sector, businesses are currently folding up and more will follow suit; this will add to the unemployment challenge that the Federal Government is wrestling with if urgent and precise actions are not taken to nip this development in the bud before it is too late.”
Also speaking, a former National Financial Secretary, NANTA, Daisi Olotu, said Nigerians were taking scarce dollars across the borders to purchase tickets in neighbouring countries.
According to him, the government is losing money, while the neighbouring countries are making money from ticket sales and foreign exchange.
He said, “Nigerians buy tickets in dollars in Cotonou and fly out from there. All the airlines flying out of Cotonou are in Nigeria, but they shut their low inventories against us in Nigeria and have them opened in Cotonou. People fly from Lagos to Ghana, buy tickets and fly out from there.
“The Nigerian government is losing money and the Benin government is making huge money from the activities of foreign airlines against Nigerians and our country.”
Share your story or advertise with us: Whatsapp: +2347068606071 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org