Ahead of the Christmas and New Year festivities, hard times await Nigerian travellers over the skyrocketing airfares and the depleting flight options.
Despite recent announcement by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to pay part of the trapped funds of foreign airlines, findings revealed that the funds belonging to the airlines are still on the high side, and this is partly responsible for the high cost of flight tickets.
Checks also showed that the airlines’ trapped fund is now estimated to amount to $800million, putting pressure on many airlines.
Emirates Airlines recently suspended flights to Nigeria indefinitely, citing the difficulty in repatriating funds from ticket sales.
In a statement, the airline noted that it was earlier encouraged by the CBN’s response and assurance that the issue would be swiftly resolved with the subsequent clearance of the remaining funds.
It was reliably gathered that Emirates got 50 per cent of the first tranche of the blocked funds, which is about $45million, many of the airlines did not get up to that. In addition, Emirates was said to be worried about the continued accumulation of the funds, hence the decision to suspend flights.
While the Emirates blamed the suspension of flights on the trapped funds, the visa ban on Nigerians by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities also resulted in ban as the load factor on the Dubai route has been shrinking. Nigeria’s airline, Air Peace, also said it would stop flights by next week, November 22, over the same visa ban as there are few or no passengers to carry since the UAE is not issuing visas to Nigerians.
With Dubai, one of the most lucrative routes and most frequently visited countries by Nigerians out of the calculation, many passengers are now exploring alternatives amidst high fares.
London, for instance, has always been a regular destination for Nigerians for holidays, business, medical tourism, and education, among others. But many stakeholders, including travel agents and passengers who spoke with Daily Trust, said the airfares were not friendly.
Checks also revealed that many airlines have not released lower inventories on their websites as fares are still extremely high.
For instance, British Airways’ fare for a one-way Lagos-London flight has not changed from $2,698 to $2,777 for an economy ticket which was the price months ago.