How government neglect reinforces exploitation of Nigerians by foreign airlines
Worried about the chaotic status of international travel in the country, travel agencies next week will file complaints with the National Assembly demanding legislative intervention over the protracted foreign airline stranded funds crisis that is rocking the travel industry. air Transport.
More than 2,000 travel agencies, under the umbrella of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), will protest the withholding of around $300 million by the Central Bank, the Federal Government’s apparent nonchalance in finding a durable solution and the concomitant exposure of Nigerian travelers to price gouging.
The Guardian yesterday learned that some two months after the CBN released $265 million of the $464 million trapped in Nigeria, there has been no respite from the crisis.
Affordable travel tickets that were previously withdrawn by foreign airlines following the crisis have continued to elude the Nigerian market, even as equity funds continue to accumulate and now stand at over 300 millions of dollars.
The President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Susan Akporiaye, said earlier that the consequence of the blocked fund was the misfortune of Nigerian travelers buying an average six-hour economy class ticket for between 1.5 and 2.7 million naira. .
The Business Class variant sells on average between 4 and 5 million naira, which is more than 250% compared to the rate sold in other parts of the world.
Sources told the Guardian the matter had almost spiraled out of control, with travellers, travel agencies and the entire industry in distress.
“Government neglect is the biggest concern for all of us. Not only has the government failed to engage airlines and other stakeholders regarding the frozen fund, but most disappointing is the Central Bank’s comment that foreign airlines are not its priority. Oh good? Then something is fundamentally wrong with us as a people and NANTA has decided to take the matter to the National Assembly next week on Monday,” one of the sources said.
Travel expert, who is also chairman of the Joint Airlines and Passengers Committee (APJC) of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Bankole Bernard, also blamed government negligence for the worsening of the crisis.
Bernard said CBN’s refusal to release blocked funds or engage with business partners amounts to an act of sabotage of the traveling public.
He said, “There is a contractual agreement with the airlines to sell in Naira and get the dollar equivalent in return. But the CBN is now saying airlines are not its priority after carriers sold Naira. Even among thieves there should be honor.
“Yet while CBN does not give airlines dollars to repatriate their sales, government aviation agencies continue to collect dollar taxes and fees from airlines. Where are the airlines supposed to get it? Why can’t the government solve this problem by ensuring that agencies collect their dues in naira, which is 45% of every air ticket, to reduce the burden of stranded funds? Unfortunately, the ripple effects are all passed on to air travelers who are punished by foreign airlines with exorbitant fares,” Bernard said.
Akporiaye explained earlier that the tickets currently available in Nigeria are premium as most airlines have removed the affordable layers.
“Some foreign airlines prevent travel agencies from selling their tickets on the Global Distribution System (GDS) platform. Inventories are blocked on the platform, which means that travel agencies and even airline offices cannot issue because inventory has been blocked for Nigeria.
“Those who haven’t closed their stocks are limiting sales to the highest fares in each cabin (Economy, Business and First Class). You don’t even want to know what the prices are. It’s just crazy and totally out of range,” she lamented.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) earlier warned that Nigeria and other countries withholding airline funds risked a 200-300% hike in airfares. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently released $265 million of the $464 million trapped in Nigeria in July 2022.