The National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA) has called on the Federal Government to wade into the exorbitant air fares currently charged by foreign airlines.
Mrs Susan Akporiaye, National President of NANTA, during a media briefing on Friday in Lagos, said that it was disheartening that a Nigerian traveller would have to pay over 2,000 dollars for an economy ticket.
“As we speak, it is only in Nigeria that a traveller is made to cough out over 2,000 dollars for an economy ticket and also change the date of the flight itinerary for whatever personal reasons with about N1.5 million to N1.8 million.
“All low-fare inventories of the airlines have been deliberately blocked to our members and to this market.
“Airlines, even after various engagements as partners seem not to take such relationship or business history with NANTA into consderation, but have gone ahead to make the market extremely difficult for members and in fact expensive for travellers.
“This is the harsh reality bedeviling the downstream sector of the aviation industry which we as NANTA, represent,” she said.
Akporiaye noted that currently, Nigerian travel agents can only own up to selling less than 30 per cent tickets sold in Nigeria while the country continues to lose the five per cent tax on every ticket sold to Nigerian travellers in other countries.
According to her, with this development, Nigeria is now at a disadvantaged position, since the airlines have mastered the art of expoiting the FOREX issue to their advantage.
She said Nigeria travel market continues to be at the losing end with the airlines being indifferent to the plights of travellers.
According to her, as Nigerian travel agents are disadvantaged to package some foreign tickets, they contact their counterparts in other countries to do same but the five per cent tax the nation is supposed to benefit has been consistently lost.
She said this continues to affect the nation greatly and the federal government must take reasonable steps to permanently put things in shape.
She noted that though airlines continue to blame the exorbitant ticket fares on their trapped funds but that was not justifiably enough.
“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 multifaceted dilemma.
“Certainly and significantly, Nigeria travel trade professionals are at crossroads with no help from the federal government either through the Central Bank of Nigeria or the Ministry of Aviation to addressing these challenges and finding 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.
“The current fare structure and practices are exploitative to the Nigerian travellers, we strongly request the airlines to open inventories to tally with what obtains in similar markets,” she said.
Akporiaye explained that in the aviation downstream sector, businesses were currently folding up, aggravating the unemployment challenge that the federal government had been wrestling with.
She warned that if urgent and precise actions were not taken to control the situation, the economy of the nation would be greatly affected.
“The Nigerian travelling public are groaning over this exorbitant fares, the foreign airlines know that we are fantastic travellers and are taking advantage of that.
“The suffocating profiteering practices by majority of the foreign airlines is unbelievable and unexplainable.
“This is the Nigerian market that is ranked by many indices of IATA as one of the best in Africa and with the best post-COVID-19 recovery rates across Africa and Middle East,” she said.
Also, Mr Dayo Adeola, a member of the NANTA Board of Directors, suggested that if nothing could be done about the exorbitant ticket fares, the airlines should be made to revert to paying commission to the travel agencies like in the past.
Mr Yinka Folami, Vice President, NANTA Lagos zone, said, “there is no way the airlines can justify the fares obtainable now and that is why we have resulted in advocacy to draw the attention of government to this.