Dele Ogbodo in Abuja
The Head of Middle East, Africa and Central Asia Sales of British Airways/Iberia, Mr. Paolo De Renzis, has said the scarcity of foreign exchange, coupled with the harsh business landscape that have impacted on foreign airlines notwithstanding, the airline will not downgrade any of operational outlets in Abuja or Lagos.
THISDAY has reported that while Emirate airline has closed its Abuja office due to dwindling passenger traffic, harsh operating business environment and scarcity of FX, other foreign airline operators are on the verge of downgrading operations in the country.
Addressing reporters over the weekend in Abuja on BA’s 80 years of doing business in the country, Renzis said the airline has started fine-tuning its business strategy to keep improving on services even in the challenging environment.
He, however, expressed appreciation to the Minister of Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emiefele, for their intervention in improving foreign remittance back to home states.
Asked on the impact of the present operating business environment, he said: “We have been around for 80 years and we are very committed to Nigeria. Our plan is to be around for another 80 years if not more. It is our expectation that things will keep improving in the next weeks, months and we keep reviewing our operations for improved air service delivery to the country.”
He commended the ministers of finance and aviation alongside the CBN governor for their intervention in foreign exchange scarcity, adding that the situation is much better when it comes to foreign remittances. “If you look at the current situation now compared to where we were like in six months ago, we are in a much better place,” he added.
According to him, 80 years of the airline’s flight services into Nigeria confirm the commitment it has to Nigeria, adding: “We are very happy with our relationship Nigeria. We have a very long standing relationship with Nigeria. British Airways started flying into Nigeria in 1936. We have been around in Nigeria for 80 years growing with a number of flight operations, means that it has been a successful journey.”
While lauding the improvement in air traffic between Nigeria and UK over the years, he said the good news is that things have changed. “Now the flying time is less than seven hours. We have now daily flights from both Lagos and Abuja”, he said.
On the high cost of fares from Nigeria to UK, as compared to neighbouring countries, Renzis explained that the depreciating value of the naira when compared to other currencies had affected the air fare.
He said: “If you look at what happens in Ghana and here it is not exactly the same, they are actually much better than Nigeria, because of their exchange rate. We had a meeting earlier with the minister of finance and what everybody is hoping is that things will get better in 2017.
“If you look at Ghana right now, all the economists around will tell you that they are in a better position. We need not just take Nigeria alone into consideration, but all other countries where we operate. Currency devaluation affects the way we price”, he stated.
According to him, “government must do more to address issues on operating in the business environment. If we have been around for 80 years and we want to be around for another 80 years, we need to adjust our pricing according to profitable demand.”