Travel agents in Nigeria, represented by the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agents (NANTA), have called on foreign airlines to lower ticket prices after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) cleared outstanding funds amounting to $64.44 million. The association emphasized that with the resolution of trapped funds, there is no justification for airlines to withhold lower ticket inventories, leading to a surge in airfare costs.
NANTA President, Susan Akporiaye, expressed concern over the continued restriction of lower ticket inventories by foreign airlines, deeming it excessive, profit-driven, and unsupportive of the Nigerian government and its struggling economy. Following the payment of the outstanding backlog by the CBN, the association urged foreign airlines to reconsider their pricing strategies, especially amid the current economic challenges faced by Nigerians.
Foreign airlines had previously increased airfare on Nigerian routes, citing non-payment of funds by the Nigerian government, and removed more affordable ticket inventories, prompting a spike in international air travel costs. This situation compelled Nigerian travelers to explore alternative routes through Ghana, Togo, and other neighboring countries with more favorable fares.
Akporiaye noted that, with the Real Official Exchange (ROE) at N1,421 and the backlog payment by the CBN, foreign airlines lack valid grounds to maintain inventory restrictions into the Nigerian market. The NANTA president emphasized that the association’s stance is transparent to the International Air Travel Association (IATA). If complete inventories are not released by all airlines by February 2, 2024, NANTA plans to address a world press conference.
The CBN had engaged with NANTA leadership a week ago, explaining economic challenges and appealing for patience while assuring the clearance of all matured bids within two weeks. However, IATA contradicted the CBN’s claim, asserting that $700 million belonging to foreign airlines remains trapped in Nigeria. The international airlines’ umbrella body is consulting with its members to verify the release of their revenues.
In the midst of this, Emirates Airlines is set to resume operations in Nigeria following the CBN’s confirmation of a $137 million payment. The CBN spokesperson, Hakama Sidi-Ali, affirmed that all verified FX claims by foreign airlines have been settled, with a total verified sum paid of $136.73 million.