Foreign airlines operating in Nigeria have blocked all low ticket inventories making it difficult for passengers to buy affordable tickets.
This is coming after several complaints to the various Nigerian authorities by the carriers about their inability to repatriate their funds to their home countries.
According to the operators, blocked funds have risen to about $600m and this is due to the inability of the Central Bank of Nigeria to make the dollar available for the carriers to repatriate.
Travellers in Nigeria in reaction to the high cost of tickets have devised strategies to procure cheaper international flights.
According to an online media report, some Nigerian travellers now fly through neighbouring airports as one of such cost-cutting strategies.
A traveller from Nigeria, a businessman, identified as Joe Anakwe, said he recently moved to Ghana and flew from there to Dubai.
“Yes, it is cheaper, but it is also meant to have fewer hassles,” he said. Those countries do not have a dollar crisis like we do, and their flight costs are cheaper when compared with buying in naira.”
Charles Sawoe, another Nigerian traveller while speaking on his strategy said “I have agents in Ghana and France. Those countries do not have issues with forex the way it is here. So, they buy tickets for me at cheaper rates. At times, I fly through Ghana, but sometimes I move through Lagos. But the most important thing for me is that I don’t normally buy tickets here the way I used to.”
The president of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Susan Akporiaye, in a telephone interview with the online media, confirmed that Nigerians had started flying from Accra, Ghana, to London, Canada, and other frequently visited destinations.
She said, “Nigerians are already flying from Ghana to other countries because the lower inventories of tickets are no longer available in Nigeria. People go to Accra because Accra still has the lowest inventory available.
“By the time all airlines restrict sales to only the highest inventories like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have done, then more people will move to Accra to fly.”
She however said that travellers in Nigeria do not have to go to neighbouring countries to procure cheaper international tickets as the same can be procured within Nigeria.
“Rather than fly to other West African countries, Nigerians aiming to travel can log in to the airline’s websites. Lower fares are on their websites and since they’re not based in Nigeria, payment will be made in the currency of the country, so that’s another way we can get lower fares as their website is domiciled in their countries.
“The only reason why they are not selling lower fares here is that they don’t want it to be sold in naira because their money is trapped here. So, as much as they can, they make the ones that we can sell in naira higher, and then through their websites you can get lower ones, but you will pay in the currency of the country. They’re trying to get back some of their forex that is stuck in Nigeria so that it doesn’t keep increasing exponentially.
“They are business people and a lot of the things they do is in dollars. They pay FAAN in dollars, buy fuel in dollars, service their aircrafts in dollars, and meanwhile, a lot of the money is trapped here in naira. Even though it is in their accounts and not in the hands of the government, it’s of no use to them in naira. The money will only be of use to them if it is in dollars and that is where the problem is. We don’t have forex, so because of the dollar shortage, the government can’t convert their money for them. So, they are looking for a way to make sure that they get some things back. So, the person that is willing to pay N1.7m will pay in naira, so they’ll go and buy from the black market. But for those lower ones now, they cannot carry their money and go and buy from the black market, which will be a huge loss.
“The Nigerian government does not allow trade in any other currency except the naira but trade on the website of an airline is not considered illegitimate in Nigeria because that website is not domiciled here. So, you can’t say that they are selling dollars in Nigeria; it’s only when you go to their office physically or through a travel agency and you’re paying in dollars that they can have issues with the Nigerian government. On their websites, they can do anything they want to do.”
You can read the full story in The Punch.