The President of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Mrs Susan Akporiaye, said the lackadaisical attitude by the Federal Government and unfair practices by foreign airlines flying into Nigeria are the major reasons the challenge of trapped foreign airlines’ funds of over $500 million have continued to linger over a year later.
While disclosing this on Friday in Lagos during a briefing with aviation Journalists, Mrs Akporiaye added that the unpleasant actions have also led to an estimated 721,000 job losses within the aviation sector in the past 12 months.
Huge havoc: According to her, the failure of the foreign airlines to repatriate their funds of about $600 million is causing huge havoc in the travel business, especially the travel agencies. She specifically said that her members have lost about $500 million within the period, while jobs are consistently being lost by the operators.
She expressed sadness that despite a series of advocates, the Nigerian travel market had continued to be at the losing end with the airlines being indifferent to the plight of travellers.
She, therefore, called on the government to be strategic, deliberate and direct in resolving the multifaceted dilemma, which she warned may soon cripple the air travel sector in the country if not immediately nipped in the bud. She said:
- “As we speak, it is only in Nigeria that a traveller is made to cough out over $2,000 for an economy ticket and also change the date of the flight itinerary for whatever personal reasons with about N1.5 to N1.8 million. To put this in perspective, all low-fare inventories of the airlines have been deliberately blocked by our members and this market.
- “Airlines, even after various engagements as partners, have seemed not to take such relationship or business history with NANTA into consideration, rather, they have gone ahead to make the market extremely difficult for members and in effect expensive for travellers.
- “This now means, Nigeria is at a disadvantage since the airlines seem to have mastered the art of exploiting the foreign exchange issue to their advantage. Agencies are now forced to fold, leave the country or try to use other neighbouring countries to sell to their customers.”
Businesses affected: She decried that due to the unresolved challenge, businesses are currently folding up in the aviation downstream sector, warning that more would still go under in the coming months. She maintained that this would add to the high rate of unemployment in the country.
- The NANTA President explained that beyond the previous notion that trapped funds could be responsible for the reactions of a few airlines, which made trading on their inventory difficult and expensive, said the story has changed as they are now profiteering at the expense of the Nigerian travelling public.
- Acknowledging Nigeria as one of the biggest markets for any airline that operates within it, Akporiaye urged the airlines to respect and appreciate the impact of the traffic the market offers and seek better ways to ensure there is mutual benefit in tandem with the current reality.
- She regretted that the trade rules adopted in Nigeria that are not acceptable in neighbouring West African countries are not only obnoxious but inconsistent with global best practices.
- According to her, the development called for more concerns, saying the more Airlines generate, the more they claim for repatriation of trapped funds grows.