airport

…NCAA yet to sanction airlines selling tickets in dollars

By Prince Okafor

Succour for travellers from Nigeria to foreign countries remains a far cry, as more foreign airlines introduce restrictive measures on their operations.

Restrictions such as selling of ticket in dollars, stoppage of ticket issuance originating outside Nigeria, reduction of inventories, among others.

The development is coming against the backdrop of over $456 million trapped funds belonging to foreign airlines.

Accordingly, most foreign airlines operating in the country have stopped receiving payment for air tickets in naira, which contravenes the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, directives.

The NCAA, had threatened to sanction any airline selling in dollar, but to date, no single airlineselling tickets in foreign currency have been sanctioned.

Aviation World gathered that foreign airlines collect Naira for their tickets to customers and exchange the same for foreign currencies for their operations. But recently they said they have been unable to do so through the official foreign exchange market due to the scarcity of foreign exchange in Nigeria.

Following the development, the Federal Government promised to release about $265 million of the over $456 million trapped funds to the airlines in August 2022.

However, findings by Vanguard Aviation World showed that only a few airlines have only received $133 million, representing 25 percent of the amount promised to date.

More airlines have introduced restrictions – NANTA

In a chat with Vanguard’s Aviation World, the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies, NANTA, President, Susan Akporiaye, lamented that the situation has gotten worse.

She said: “Some airlines that did not have any restrictions before now, have introduced more restrictions, making it more difficult for both travellers and travel agents.

“Qatar Airways, ASKY, Africa World Airlines, are the only airlines operating in the country without restriction on ticket purchases, both in Nigeria and their country.

“Ethiopian Airlines, along with a few other airlines have joined in placing restrictions for ticketing. “Currently, we cannot issue tickets originating outside Nigeria. Before now we could do Abuja to London but no more. “The foreign airlines have reduced inventories too. For instance, if the aircraft capacity is let’s say 250, they do not open all for travel agents. It’s either they open half or just 100.”

We didn’t increase any of our charges – FAAN

While there were insinuations that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, was responsible for the hike in foreign airlines ticket fares, the Authority has debunked the allegation.

A recent speculation noted that the authority charges stifle flight operations, as KLM, Lufthansa, Emirates, others increase airfares by 100 percent.

But in a swift reaction, FAAN’s Acting General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Faithful Hope-Ivbaze noted that with respect to reports making the rounds on social media, the authority would like to inform passengers and the general public that it did not increase any of its charges.

She said: “The charges being collected by FAAN are statutory, and therefore cannot be increased without the knowledge of our esteemed passengers and other airport users.

“While it is true that the cost of aviation fuel has gone astronomically high and has adversely affected airline operators worldwide, culminating in an increase in ticket fares, we want to reiterate that FAAN has not increased its charges. “We are mindful of the challenges of our esteemed passengers and other airport users as a result of the increase in airfares, hence the need not to do so.”

Local operators have capacity to fly Int’l routes – Obiora

Following the development, domestic operators have frowned over the recent restrictions introduced by foreign airlines, as they maintained that they cannot stand by to see foreign airlines exploiting travellers in the country.

According to the Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, Obiora Okonkwo, “Why do foreign airlines charge so much? “In the aviation industry, one-hour flight fuel consumption is the same, the only difference is maybe different landing charges in London or Ghana, the rest is the same.

“I can assure you that if Air Peace goes to London today, Nigerians will fly to London with an Economy ticket of N500,000. Today the price is about N2 million, why should we pay such if they are converting from N450 to $1?

“We owe Nigerians this explanation. However, whatever is going on, this is a wake-up call that the local operators have to be supported as they have all it takes to operate internationally.

“Emirates have over $5 billion in support from their government. When we ask for support, it is not free, we pay back. American Airlines have equity of over $60 billion and a debt profile of $70 billion and those debts all come from government support.

“If the local airlines are supported, we can have the capacity that cannot be threatened globally. “The easiest flight to operate is a long haul. Short haul is even more difficult as it is stressful to both the aircraft and cabin crew.

“It is even easier to go to London, aviation is the same globally, you are audited by IOSA, IATA and that is, they prevented us and make us looks bad. They are also aware that our quality and regulatory standards are high. We get crews and captains coming to Nigeria and they fail our exams and we send them back.

“Captains come from abroad and we reduce them to first officer seat because they lack the quality. The only is that we are being outplayed politically, and I do not think our embassies oversee have this understanding of the politics of aviation.”

But, Akporiaye stated that there is a lot involved for local airlines to fly through the international space.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.