Air fare: Britain, Nigeria squares up in war of economic gains

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As Nigeria still struggles with  deep rape of economic well being from many big  nations, exploiting its weak leadership in the past and using same to overrun her integrity, she had warned to take action against non-conforming Airlines,especially British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.  Nigeria wants necessary adjustment to air fares to match up with what obtains in other neighboring nations.  Britain has hit back warning that it would retaliate. There seems to be a long drawn battle of  strength. Can Nigeria ever win such battle?
The British government has warned that it would take retaliatory steps against Nigerian airlines, if the federal government bans carriers over fare disparity.

This came as British Airways said in a statement last night that all its fares were competitive and on a sound commercial basis.

Cameron, British PM. and President Jonathan

Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Odua, had weekend threatened to ban any foreign airline which failed to adjust its fares to reflect equity with their prevailing fares on the West Coast. She gave the airlines one month ultimatum.

Reacting to the ultimatum last night, Britain said banning private airlines would amount to a “heavy-handed action that would be catastrophic.”

Consequently, Britain said it would not hesitate to retaliate if the federal government goes ahead with the threat to ban after 30 days.

Britain said only business and first class fares were more expensive to Nigerians than neighbouring countries because of high demand for those seats.

It also said banning BA and Virgin would break a bilateral air services agreement. between both countries.

“It (the ban) would cause potential foreign investors to question whether they want to put their money in Nigeria and have a long-term and damaging effect on Nigeria’s growth,” a British High Commission spokesman said.

“The Prime Minister and President Goodluck Jonathan signed a joint communique last year pledging to double bilateral trade. Action against BA and Virgin would damage that strategic aim,”a British High Commission spokesman.

The fare dispute is running parallel to another row between Nigeria and Britain over airport landing slots.

Nigeria’s biggest carrier Arik Air actually stopped its daily flights between Abuja and London Heathrow yesterday because it was being prevented from getting arrival and departure slots at UK airports.

“It is wrong to suggest that Arik has been prevented from flying into Heathrow. Our understanding is that Arik is just unwilling to pay for the cost of renting or buying landing slots,” the British spokesman said.

He added that it was something all airlines who want new slots into Heathrow needed to do.

The Aviation Minister had argued that it was unfair for BA and Virgin to charge more to fly Nigerian than passengers from neighbouring West African countries.

“We are seriously concerned and worried by the reluctance to restore parity within the region by the foreign airlines,” Aviation Minister Stella Oduah said in a statement.

“They have been using all kinds of delay tactics, this is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated. We will resolve this issue once and for all,” she had said in a statement Monday night.

Also reacting to the threat, British Airways said in a statement that its fares were competitive and were based on a sound commercial plank.

We ‘ve been flying to Nigeria for 75 yrs — BA

The airline said:  “British Airways is fully legally compliant with the requirements of the Air Services Agreement between the UK and Nigeria. We remain committed to Nigeria and continue to serve the country with daily flights to Lagos and Abuja.

“We have been flying there for more than 75 years and pride ourselves on offering competitive fares, a choice of products and connections to our Nigerian customers.
“All of our fares are set on a sound commercial basis and remain fully competitive with other carriers in the region including Arik Air.”

Meanwhile, stakeholders in the aviation industry have commended the aviation minister for issuing foreign airlines a 30-day ultimatum, stressing it was long overdue.

Aviation Consultant, Mr Chris Aligbe, noted that the minister, as the number one stakeholder in the aviation industry, was now speaking the minds of Nigeria-based passengers who were usually extorted whenever they flew in foreign airlines.

“With the ultimatum given by the minister, the Federal Government is taking the issue of disparity in fares paid by passengers from Nigeria seriously.

“The Federal Government is now showing concern about the plight of Nigerians and others who opt to fly with foreign airlines,” Aligbe said.

He alleged that his findings had revealed that all the European airlines flying into and out of Nigeria were involved in the international flight fare disparity.

Aligbe advised that Nigerians should exercise patience until the expiration of the minister’s ultimatum.

Mr Kelvin Umoh, a UK-bound passenger, lamented the high air fares usually charged by foreign airlines, describing them as cut-throat. “One continues to wonder why the foreign airlines charge higher fares from Nigeria, compared to what they charge in Ghana,” he said.

“What is the distance between Nigeria and Ghana, that foreign airlines are charging between $1,000 and $2, 000 from Nigerian passengers, above what they charge in Ghana,” he queried.

Mrs Patience Olayiwola, another passenger, said the ultimatum was a welcome development, aimed at stopping the fleecing of Nigerians of their hard earned money.

“Most passengers planning to fly international routes now prefer doing that from Ghana, instead of Nigeria, thus causing capital flight and reducing revenues derivable to the Federal Government from such flights,” she said.

-Vanguard