Foreign airlines have disclosed that about 90 percent of their $783m trapped funds have remained unpaid.
The airlines stated this during a stakeholders’ forum convened by Festus Keyamo, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, in Lagos recently.
According to data from the International Air Transport Association, as of August 2023, Nigeria accounted for a substantial $783m of airlines’ blocked funds.
Despite recent efforts to alleviate the situation, the airlines said a significant portion of those funds remained inaccessible to them.
Chima Kingsley, the Chairman of International Airline Operators, emphasised that international banks had received some funds from the Central Bank of Nigeria that only accounted for a fraction, less than 10 per cent of the trapped funds.
“The bulk of the blocked funds are with Nigerian commercial banks. The bulk of the money has not been paid,” he said.
He noted that the he airlines are asked by the Central Bank to go their banks as the CBN will not deal directly with any airline.
Since last year, foreign airlines operating in Nigeria blocked low ticket inventories (cheap tickets), leaving high inventories (costly tickets) to be sold in naira only, while the low ticket inventories on most airlines’ websites could only be bought with dollar cards only.
This was in a bid to cushion the effect of their trapped funds in Nigeria which kept rising.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said the foreign airlines trapped funds in Nigeria is $783 million.
While airlines gradually opened up low ticket inventories which they had blocked, as the Central Bank of Nigeria released their trapped funds in trickles, BusinessDay’s investigations show that high ticket inventories were still more on the websites, making ticket prices high.
Susan Akporiaye, the President of the National Association of Travel Agents of Nigeria, (NANTA) told BusinessDay that the reduction in summer travels has been there since the restriction of inventories on the airlines’ website.
Akporiaye however noted that the new dollar rate policy has worsened the situation because ticket prices are very high that even corporate travels are now affected.