• Monday, December 04, 2023
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Airlines trapped funds: FG yet to pay promised $265m in full

Air fares to rise further as foreign airlines FX rate hit N634/$

The federal government is yet to pay in full the promised sum of $265 million out of N465 million owed foreign airlines operating in the country to settle outstanding ticket sales.

Two weeks ago, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said it has released the sum of $265 million to airlines operating in the country to settle outstanding ticket sales in a bid to check a brewing crisis in the country’s aviation sector.

A breakdown of the figure indicates that the sum of $230 million was released as special FX intervention while another sum of $35 million was released through Retail Secondary Market Intervention Schemes (SMIS) auction.

However two weeks after, less than 50 percent of the $265 million amount promised to be disbursed to airlines have been released, and some airlines have not received their money.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Susan Akporiaye, president of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) said information reaching NANTA show that some airlines have not received any of their money trapped and some others have only received less than 25 percent of the monies trapped in Nigeria.

Akporiaye said the situation is creating trust issues between the federal government and the airlines and this is the reason some airlines are still charging exorbitant fares.

She said the delay in repatriation of funds of foreign airlines in the country assumed an embarrassing scenario when International Air Transport Association (IATA) bared it’s fangs and labelled the country a debt bearing nation, which brought the knocks to no end.

Read also: FG to sanction airlines selling tickets in dollars – Sirika

“In between these strangulating circumstances, the airlines withdrew lower inventories across board, selling at the highest possible openings as way to cushion their trapped funds.

“Amid the challenges and exorbitant option for our clients and other travelling public not excluding the threat to job losses and closure of shops by most of our members, we held on to optimism that our government would respond,” she said.

The NANTA president said several travel agents have closed shop and sacked their workers because they are not able to sell the exorbitant fares by foreign airlines, thereby forcing many out of business.

“Travel agents use Global Distribution System and inventories were blocked on that platform and even airline offices cannot issue tickets. Those that have not closed inventories are restricting sales to highest ticket inventories and this has affected sales by travel agents.

“Currently several travel agents are out of job. There is a projection that if this continues, over three million direct and indirect jobs will be lost. These are jobs related to travel which include hotels, shops around the airport, ground handlers, travel agents, cleaners, tourists, photographers and canteens amongst others,” Akporiaye explained.

Akporiaye however stated that despite the payments made to the airlines, foreign airlines charge the Nigerian travelling public with most exploitative fares in the name of protecting their business.

“As usual with them, their response which we could describe as ‘High Fare pandemic’, is solely targeted at Nigeria and Nigerians, and cannot be seen where in Africa even in countries where they also have their funds being trapped in Nigeria.

“Nigerians have to buy tickets to the tune of three to four million naira be charged as high as one million naira to change travel dates even on tickets before this trouble began”.

“We appreciate the response to the release of some funds, we urge Government as a matter of urgency to open further windows of engagement and calling for a meeting with all parties involved; to include CBN, Minister of Aviation, Minister of Finance, Foreign Airlines, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority and IATA,” she said.