Travel agencies will complain to the National Assembly next week about the disorderly state of international travel in the nation in an effort to get lawmakers to intervene on the foreign airlines’ protracted delayed fund situation, which is shattering the aviation industry.
Under the auspices of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), over 2000 travel agencies will protest the Central Bank’s withholding of about $300 million, the Federal Government’s apparent lack of interest in finding a long-term solution, and the subsequent exposure of Nigerian travelers to exorbitant fares.
The Guardian learned yesterday that the crisis has not abated nearly two months after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) released $265 million of the $464 million stranded in Nigeria.
In spite of the stock funds continuing to grow and now totaling more than $300 million, foreign airlines have continued to withdraw reasonably priced travel tickets from the Nigerian market.
Susan Akporiaye, president of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), previously stated that it was the unfortunate fate of Nigerian travelers to purchase an average six-hour Economy Class ticket for between N1.5 and N2.7 million as a result of the blocked fund.
Compared to other regions of the world, the Business Class model sells for an average of N4 to N5 million, an increase of about 25%.
The problem has almost gotten out of hand, according to sources who spoke to The Guardian, and travelers, travel agents, and the entire sector are in despair.
“Government’s negligence is the biggest worry for all of us. Not only has the government failed to engage the airlines and other stakeholders concerning the stuck fund, but most disappointing is the Central Bank’s comment that foreign airlines are not its priority. Really? Then, something is fundamentally wrong with us as a people and NANTA has decided to take the matter to the National Assembly next week Monday,” one of the sources offered.
Bankole Bernard, a travel expert who also serves as the Chairman of the Airlines and Passengers Joint Committee (APJC) of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), similarly attributed the situation’ escalating severity to the government’s neglect.
According to Bernard, the CBN’s failure to deal with the business partners or release stranded monies amounts to a sabotage of the traveling public.
He said: “There is a contractual agreement with airlines to sell in Naira and get dollar equivalent in return. But the CBN is now saying that the airlines are not her priority after the carriers had sold in Naira. Even among thieves, there should be honour.
“Yet, while CBN is not giving dollars to airlines to repatriate their sales, the government’s aviation agencies keep collecting taxes and charges in dollars from the airlines. Where are the airlines supposed to get it? Why can’t the government resolve that, by ensuring that agencies collect their dues in Naira, which is 45 per cent of each airfare, to reduce the burden of stranded funds? Unfortunately, the ripple effects are all passed to the air travellers that are punished by the foreign airlines with exorbitant fares,” Bernard said.
Akporiaye previously outlined the premium nature of the tickets now on offer in Nigeria as a result of the majority of airlines discontinuing the more economical tiers.
“Some foreign airlines are blocking travel agencies from selling their tickets on the Global Distribution System (GDS) platform. The inventories are blocked on the platform, meaning travel agencies and even airline offices cannot issue because the inventory was blocked for Nigeria.”
“The ones that have not closed inventories are restricting 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 is just crazy and totally out of reach,” she lamented.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) previously issued a warning that Nigeria and other nations withholding airline funding run the risk of seeing tickets increase by 200–300%. The $464 million trapped in Nigeria as of July 2022 was recently released by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in the amount of $265 million.