Soaring Airfares: NCAA Establishes 10-Man C’ttee To Rectify Unjust Practices

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The director-general of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Chris Najomo has taken proactive steps by instituting a 10-man committee, to curb the escalating costs of airfares and make travel more affordable for Nigerians.

This committee has been formed to investigate the high cost of air tickets in the country, aiming to address the unjust pricing that has burdened Nigerian travellers.

The decision to form this committee follows a crucial two-day high-level meeting held between the NCAA and foreign airlines operating in Nigeria. The primary agenda of this meeting was to urgently address the long-standing issue of blocked low inventory tickets, a problem that persisted for over 18 months.

Chaired by the director of special duties at NCAA, Mr. Horatius Egua, the 10-man committee carries the responsibility of ensuring foreign airlines fully comply with government directives to unblock all low inventory tickets. Additionally, the committee is mandated to recommend appropriate pricing of tickets in Nigeria, aligning them with similar markets in West Africa.

The committee comprises key figures, including the director of public affairs and consumer protection at NCAA, Mr. Michael Achimugu; General manager, licensing and statistics at NCAA, Mr. Rotimi Arogunjo; Deputy general manager, legal services, NCAA, Mrs. Ogechi Louis-Azode; President, National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Mrs. Susan Akporiaye; Assistant general manager, fairs and tariffs, NCAA, Mrs. Olaoluwa Oladipupo; Assistant director, FCCPC, Mr. David-Ojuigo; Incoming president, NANTA, Mr. Yinka Folami; Chief legal officer, FCCPC, Ms. Florence Abebe and the senior special assistant (SSA) to DG, NCAA, Mrs. Ifueko Abdulmalik would serve as the committee’s secretary.

Over the past months, Nigerians have been subjected to exorbitant airfares on international flights. Foreign airlines justified these increases by citing the high exchange rate and various other issues. Additionally, they deliberately blocked low inventory tickets, exacerbating the financial burden on Nigerian travellers.

“This is very discriminatory in nature. We cannot continue to pay higher fares compared to other countries in the sub-region that have similar distances, using the same operating aircraft. We have the market, and in some cases, we have more liberal taxes. This is unacceptable, and we totally reject this,” stated Egua during the meeting held between February 12 and 13, 2024, in Abuja.

He further emphasised the disparity in costs, pointing out that a six-hour flight from Ghana to London sometimes costs about $800, while a similar distance with the same operating aircraft can cost over $2000 in Nigeria. Such discriminatory and unfair practices were met with strong opposition by the Nigerian authorities.

Responding to public outcry and the evident need for intervention, the NCAA convened a two-day meeting with foreign airlines operating in Nigeria. The meeting took place at the NCAA headquarters in Abuja and included representatives from the NCAA, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) and the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA). The International Air Transport Association (IATA) represented the foreign airlines.

Following the meeting, the NCAA expressed profound reservations over high fare costs and discriminatory practices. They called for an immediate reversal of this trend. A key resolution demanded a reduction in ticket costs and the unconditional unblocking of lower inventory tickets for the Nigerian market.

In compliance with the authority’s directive, Lufthansa German Airlines, KLM, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, British Airways, Royal Air Maroc, RwandAir and Turkish Airlines have released all categories of low inventory tickets. However, Air France has failed to comply with these directives and none of the foreign airlines has adjusted their ticket pricing to reflect market realities.

The NCAA assures Nigerians that it will actively protect their interests and continue working to rectify these issues, ensuring fair and just airfares for all.

Oluchi Okorafor
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