Britain/Nigeria Airfare war: Nigeria rejects BA's 20% fare cut to Nigeria

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British Airways plane

BRITISH Airways has proposed a 20 per cent cut in fares on the Lagos-London and Abuja-London routes.

But the Ministry of Aviation has requested for further cuts, having considered the proposal as insulting and  “insufficient”.

The first class Lagos-London one-way fare is $5,408 whereas the same booking for a passenger on the Accra-London route is $2,399.

A business class Lagos-London one-way fare is $3,685. On the Accra-London route, it is $2,049.
The proposed cut and the guarantee of additional flying slots to Arik Air on the Abuja-London Heathrow route are the highlights of the two-day talks between the Federal Government and British Airways over frequency reduction.

British authorities cut Arik Air’s frequency into London airports. The Federal Government, in a retaliatory measure, cut BA’s Lagos-London frequency from seven to thrice weekly.
Following a peace initiative, the talks were held. But they are inclusive.

Special Assistant (Media) to Aviation Minister Mrs Stella Oduah, Mr Joe Obi, in a statement on the talks yesterday, said: “The Nigerian government and the British Authorities held high-level negotiations yesterday and this morning. These discussions are still on-going. The outcome thus far are as follows:

“With respect to the high fares charged by British Airways and the associated regional imbalance, the airline made an offer of a 20 per cent reduction in the lowest Business Class fare between Nigeria and the UK.

“The Nigerian side considered this as insufficient. The Nigerian government is still very concerned about the regional price disparity. We still strongly believe that this regional imbalance should be dismantled. In other words, BA should offer the same or similar fares from Nigeria to the UK as is the case in any other equidistant destination within West Africa.

“The British authorities requested to be given an opportunity to carry out an independent study of the regional pricing disparity in the UK/Nigerian aviation market. We expect the conclusion of this study by the end of the year to facilitate a conclusion on the subject.

Murtala Mohammed International Airport

“With respect to slot at Heathrow airport, seven slots per week from Abuja have been secured by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) for Arik Air at prevailing commercial rates.

“As you are aware, FAAN is renovating and upgrading their airports. These efforts will require a review of current slot allocations and additional funding. Towards this end, FAAN is considering applying commercial slot rates for slots into Murtala Mohammed International Airport in the spirit of Bilateral Air Service Agreement.

“The Nigerian flying public is advised to make wise choices about which airlines they fly as regards the pricing of their tickets.

“The Federal Ministry of Aviation assures Nigerians that their interests with regard to safety, security, comfort, service and affordability will remain our priority.”

The Federal Government yesterday got support from an unusual quarter on its demand for full respect for the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) between the country and Britain.

It got the full backing of the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
The Action Congress of Nigeria yesterday gave its backing to the Federal Government action on the dispute with the British authorities.

In a statement in Lagos yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party hailed the way the issue has been handled by the Aviation Ministry.

“If British airlines must fly to Nigeria unhindered, under the framework of the BASA between the two countries, then Nigerian airlines must fly to Britain without hinderance. Any move to the contrary is an attempt by one party to gain an unfair advantage over the other, and must be resisted to the hilt.

“The explanation by the Minister of Aviation that the face-off between the two countries is more about respecting the spirit and letter of the BASA between them, than any other consideration, gladdens our hearts, as it shows that Nigerians as well as the country’s corporate citizens can be sure that their government will stand up to defend their rights when necessary.

“This is in consonance with what our party has always said: That the government must stoutly defend Nigerian citizens at home and abroad, to ensure that their dignity is not trampled upon anywhere. This is the only way our country and its citizens can stand tall in the comity of nations.”

The party urged the government not to relent in its ongoing efforts to ensure that Nigerian airlines flying into Britain are not shortchanged, and also use the opportunity presented by the development to carry out a holistic review of the agreements entered into with other countries, with a view to ensuring full respect for such pacts.

It said at a time the Jonathan administration is committing many unforced errors due to poorly-conceived policies, the action of the aviation ministry represents what his government can achieve if it will only allow itself to be guided by the national interest.