By Wole Oyebade
Nigerians planning to travel overseas yesterday morning woke up to the news that their preferred foreign airlines have further raised fares one notch.
Notwithstanding the new hike, the tickets, particularly those of United and Delta Airlines are still not available to intending passengers that are wiling to pay in naira.
The Guardian gathered that while the pay portals of some of the airlines have remained inaccessible, passengers are either compelled to pay with dollars or have their tickets purchased from abroad.
An intending passenger, who identified himself as Emeka, told The Guardian that it came as a rude shock to hear that the airlines have further increased their fares.
Emeka, travelling to London from Lagos, had last week inquired for an economy class ticket of a popular airline for which he got about N800, 000. Just at the point of paying at the airport, he got a new price in the neighbourhood of N1m for the same ticket.
Another passenger told The Guardian that several efforts to buy a Lagos-New York ticket from either Delta or United Airlines proved abortive since last week.
According to him, “I have been trying to book online for a Lagos-US economy class return ticket through Delta Airline for the past one week, but their website does not accept payment, meaning that one can only pay in their offices.”When I got to their office, I was told categorically that I should pay $2,000 cash or pay from outside the shores of Nigeria.”
He said he had to contact a friend in Accra, Ghana who helped him to do his booking, which costs just $1,000 compared to $2,000 he was asked to pay in Nigeria.
He said further that immediately the booking was confirmed, he directed his friend to help him settle the bill, as he plans to travel to New York via the Kotoka International Airport, Accra.
Findings show that while all the foreign airlines operating to Nigeria have increased fares by over 100 per cent, those of other west African countries, including Ghana have remain stable and currently at about 50 per cent when compared to those fares charged in Nigeria.
While foreign airlines now charge an average sum of $2,500 for a Lagos-New York economy class return ticket, same in Accra costs $1,500 or less if the fares are promotional. For instance, a British carrier charges $10,070 for a First Class flight ticket from Abuja to London, while passengers flying from Accra to London pay $4,943 for the same class of ticket.
Abuja-London Premium Economy ticket costs $3,208, while Accra-London ticket of the same category is $2,240. The Economy ticket on the same flight costs $2,140 from Abuja, but $1,156 from Accra.
Lufthansa’s rate for Abuja-Frankfurt Economy class ticket is $3,661 while Accra-Frankfurt on the same class of ticket is $1,330. Alitalia charges $863 for one of its Accra-Rome Economy tickets but $1,509 for the Lagos-Rome equivalent.
A first class ticket to Las Vegas from Lagos is N1.8 million more than a first class ticket to the same destination from Accra.
The astronomical increase was blamed on total withdrawal of all promotional fares and discounts for reasons not unconnected with some accumulated funds of the operators still stranded in Nigeria.
It would be recalled that the current administration last year unveiled a fiscal policy, through the Central Bank of Nigeria, restricting access to foreign exchange and funds transfer out of the country.
It is one policy the airline operators are blaming for the fare hike and “restructuring” that further raised the odds against travelers. An estimate has that over $2b the foreign airlines have made from ticket sales are currently trapped in the coffers of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Confirming the Accra route option that many Nigerians are exploring, the former President of National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Aminu Agoha, said that Nigerian travellers are now developing the Ghanaian economy through the act.
Agoha lamented that travel agencies in Ghana are making huge sales from the Nigerian travellers while most of the Nigerian agencies are folding up.
Former Director General of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Capt. Roland Iyayi, said that the unwholesome development should be blamed on total negligence by the agency saddled with the regulation of the industry.
Iyayi said that if the regulatory duties were properly carried out by “people who actually know what they are doing”, then the foreign airlines would not be taking Nigerians for a ride.
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