Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos
By Chinedu Eze
Poor monitoring of the activities of foreign airlines has been attributed to the major reason why they charge high fares in Nigeria and over the years they have exploited Nigerian travelers till recently the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah intervened.
Industry critic and director of research and strategy, Zenith Travels and Tours, Fidel Olu Ohunayo, said the high charges by foreign airlines should be appraised through the perspectives of regulation, administration and implementation.
Ohunayo acknowledged the high demand of international travel on foreign airlines due to the low capacity and poor management of indigenous carriers and advocated airline protection unit that would protect the interest of indigenous carriers.
“An Airline Protection Unit should be set up in the NCAA (the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority) to protect our carriers. They should participate in BASA Bilateral Air Service Agreement), slot and other competitive issues. The unit should liaise regularly with the recently established economic protection department of the CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria), to monitor revenue transfers by foreign carriers while ensuring strong competitive regulations.”
He said that an airline (like major foreign carriers) with significant market power and dominant position operating in a jurisdiction without standard competition law rules and a competition authority can in effect engage in any anti-competitive practice without fear, “sadly Nigeria is one of those jurisdictions.”
“We are giving ultimatums and running from one public hearing hall to another when the British anti-trust body called Office of the Fair Trade (OFT) has fined and collected the fines from BA (British Airways) and VAA (Virgin Atlantic Airways) for the same offence committed in Nigeria,” Ohunayo said.
Also a seasoned pilot and industry operator, Captain Ibrahim Mshelia, said that foreign airlines charge high fares in Nigeria because Nigerians seemed indifferent to the exploitation and therefore the airlines capitalized on the complacency and tendency to show off.
“We should not spend time debating BA fares that are high because over pricing of tickets reflects our attitudes. The difference in the fares between Nigeria and Ghana is really big because I checked it myself but the truth is that BA is charging us and we are not complaining,” Mshelia said.
He also added that it may mighty be advisable for Nigeria to force the airline to bring down fares, but frowned at those who allowed BASA signed since 1988 to have remained in force till date.
“BASA should be regularly reviewed to reflect current realities. We in the industry have failed government by not advising government appropriately,” he said.