International air passengers are dumping Nigerian airports for Cotonou, Ghana airports to connect international flights due to the exhobitant airfare by foreign airlines operating in Nigeria.
Speaking to journalists, on Friday, in a press conference over the unjustifiable profiteering by foreign carriers, the National president, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agents (NANTA), Susan Akporiaye, said Nigerians are traveling across the borders in droves to connect cheaper flights to their destinations.
NANTA disclosed that it lost between $450 million to $500 million revenue in one year as a result of the drop in ticket sales.
Airfares have risen to almost 400 per cent to all international destinations as foreign airlines operating in Nigeria 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.
The airlines also stopped travel agents in Nigeria from issuing tickets emanating from other countries into Nigeria in a bid to reduce the amount of money that would be trapped in Nigeria.
LEADERSHIP reports that foreign airlines have shut their lower inventories against Nigerians due to their $550 million trapped fund with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The closure of the lower inventories by the foreign airlines have made Nigerians pay a whooping N3 million on a one-way economy ticket and N1.8 million to change ticket date.
According to her, the lower inventories that are shut against Nigerians are opened in other neighboring countries, thereby, forcing Nigerians to seek cheaper flights in those countries.
She, however, said even though they have reached out to the foreign airline operators, their response are unconvincing, saying the fares are selfish, unreasonable and exploitative.
She 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 there is more to it. The fares and practices are strangulating and our Nigerian regulations is not deployed. No power of authority in Nigeria is presently holding back the rampaging practices of airlines and we regret to say NANTA members are not protected by government in this circumstances, neither is 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 traveling agency. The government will lose as well because the government will lose the five per cent Nigeria taxes on the ticket. Definitely, it will come down to ripple effect of loses to the industry.”
Akporiaye however, stated that the foreign airlines haven’t increased fare, rather, they shutdown lower inventories against Nigerians and travel agents.
“The fare hasn’t increased. Just that the lower inventories have been taken out from Nigeria market but they existed in those other countries. The N300,000 fare that we can’t get in Nigeria, they are getting it in neighboring countries. Now, let’s do the mathematics, N300,000 to N3 million. They won’t mind going to other neighboring 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 neighboring countries,” she lamented.
“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 haye gone ahead to make the market extremely difficult for members and in effect expensive for travelers.
“This now means, Nigeria is at a disadvantage since the airlines seems 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 other neighboring countries to sell to their customers, Nigeria travel market continues to be at the losing end with the airlines being indifferent to the plight of travelers and as a body we are left with no option than 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 suite, 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, the former national financial secretary, NANTA, Daisi Olotu, disclosed that Nigerians are taking scarce dollars across the borders to purchase tickets in neighboring countries.
According to him, Nigerian government is losing money while the government of neighboring countries are making money from ticket sales and foreign exchange.
He said, “Nigerians buys tickets in dollars in Cotonou and fly out from their. All the airlines flying out of Cotonou are in Nigeria but they shut their low inventories against us in Nigeria and have it opened in Cotonou.
People fly from Lagos to Ghana, buy tickets and fly out from their.
“Nigerian government is losing money and Cotonou government are making huge money from the activities of foreign airlines against Nigerians and our country.”