Nigerian travel entrepreneurs under the aegis of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agency (NANTA) have again raised the alarm over the alleged exploitation of Nigerians by foreign airlines, noting that the attitude of the carriers in refusing to open the lower ticket inventories amounts to taking advantage of the market they operate in.
The national president of NANTA, Mrs. Susan Akporiaye at a world press conference held in Lagos on Friday, stressed that it is only in Nigeria that a traveler is made to cough out over $2000 for an economy ticket and also change the date of the flight itinerary for whatever personal reasons with about N1.5 million and N1.8 million.
To put this in perspective, the NANTA boss explained that all low-fare inventories of the airlines had been deliberately blocked to their members and to the market, stressing that airlines, even after various engagements as partners, 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 travelers.
According to her, this now means, Nigeria is at a disadvantage since the airlines seem to have mastered the art of exploiting the FOREX issue to their advantage, hinting that travel agencies are now forced to fold, leave the country, or try to use other neighboring countries to sell to their customers.
Her words, “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 Multi-faceted 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.”
The suffocating profiteering practices by the majority of the foreign airlines she narrated are unbelievable and unexplainable in a Nigerian market that she noted is ranked by many indices of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as one of the best in Africa and with the best post-COVID recovery rates across Africa and the Middle East.
To her, the Nigerian market should be applauded but regretted that the reverse is the case.
Akporiaye slammed the carriers, saying, “The trade rules are obnoxious, not consistent with global best practices, and fares are unjustifiably high, all in reaction to trapped funds. We at this stage have reasons to believe there is more to it.”
Nigeria travel trade professionals she lamented are at crossroads with no help from the Federal Government either through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) or the Ministry of Aviation to address these challenges and find solutions.
“We hold the stand that Government still retains the responsibility to commit to agreements with Airlines to protect the sector and call Airlines to order when there are obvious excesses from the airlines that put the entire industry in jeopardy; because the current fare structure and practices are exploitative to the Nigerian Traveler as well as Agencies who provides a reasonable number of jobs for our great nation. This heavy cost to the Nigerian traveler is unnecessary. We strongly request, the airlines to open inventories to tally with what obtains in similar markets.”
“Today, a willing prospective Nigerian traveler needs about N3,000,000.00 to purchase an economy ticket while date changes on some Airlines go as high as between N1,500,000.00 to N1,800,000.00. This has crippled our businesses, driven our clients away, and made Nigerians travel across our borders at huge security risk to connect cheaper flights”.
She stated that NANTA as a body has, through official channels and private contacts, reached out to the airlines but had no convincing reasons from them as to why they were doing that.
“The fares and practices are strangulating, and our Nigerian regulation is not deployed. No power or 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 in this circumstance, neither is the Nigerian travelling public.”
“We, at NANTA, are pained, anxious, and worried; we cannot over-emphasize the consequences of job losses, the security risks to Nigerians travelling across borders to connect cheaper flights, and the shame of a parallel Dollar monetary policy in the travel sector, against established national Naira monetary policy”, she added.