Incredibly high airfares have forced Nigerians returning home for the festive season to patronise travel agents outside Nigeria for their ticket back home.
Airlines had already barred low ticket inventories, leaving high ticket inventories to be sold in naira only, while low ticket inventories can only be purchased with dollar cards on most of their websites. This is done to keep more of their funds from becoming trapped in Nigeria.
As a result of the situation, Christmas travellers have bypassed local travel agencies in order to book their return tickets from other travel agencies outside of Nigeria using their dollar cards.
Most airlines serving the Lagos-London, Lagos-USA, and Lagos-Paris routes are now fully booked for the holiday season.
A return ticket from Lagos to London costs an average of N1.5 million as of Wednesday, up from N800,000 last Christmas.
A round-trip ticket from the United States to Lagos now costs N2.3 million, up from N1.2 million last year. This was gathered from the president of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Susan Akporiaye, in a session with BusinessDay.
Foreign airlines having a hard time with flight to Nigeria
Foreign airlines have found it difficult to access funds from tickets sold in the Nigeria over the last nine months due to foreign exchange scarcity, and have resorted to buying dollars on the black market for as much as N700 to a dollar, compared to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s rate of N429/$1.
According to the International Air Transport Association, trapped funds have increased from $100 million in February to over $464 million in July, making it difficult for airlines to operate smoothly.
While the central bank was able to release some of the funds, airlines have since taken steps to mitigate the effects of the trapped funds, such as selling more tickets and prohibiting local travel agents from selling tickets from other countries.
Managing director of Finchglow Travels and former NANTA president, Bankole Bernard, said,“People are travelling back to Nigeria, even though our sales are not showing the volume, it is cheaper for people to buy tickets outside Nigeria than buying from Nigeria because the naira exchange rate is very high. The airlines are opening cheaper ticket inventories outside Nigeria but closed these inventories in Nigeria.”
He added that airfares costs over N1 million for Nigerians travelling from Lagos to London, saying that even though airlines have opened up more inventories, ticket prices are still high, and airlines do not want to add to their backlog of funds.
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