NIGERIA’S foreign exchange crisis has taken another huge toll on its air travel industry as cost of air fares on some foreign routes have soared following the recent decision by some foreign airlines to relocate their ticketing and sales offices to Ghana. This was as Spanish national carrier, Iberia Airlines would suspend its Lagos-Madrid operation from May 12, 2016. Leading the pack of airlines that have moved ticketing base out of Nigeria are United and Delta Airlines as well as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. With this development intending travellers to the United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK) on these airlines now have to get their tickets through sales outlets in Ghana where the airlines now consider a safe haven for their businesses. And so far it has not been an exciting experience for travellers who now have to pay more buying tickets in Ghana, sometimes more than 30 per cent the cost of air tickets they would have bought in the country. It was learnt that Virgin had, however, reserved some tickets, mostly for its first class and business class passengers.
A travel agent, Ms. Ijeoma Ekpe, told Daily Sun that “Delta and United are not selling tickets at all from Lagos. They have shut down for now. You can only get them online but payment in naira can pose a challenge.” “What we do at present for passengers is to route their travel through Ghana. And I tell you, air fares on these airlines have all gone up,” she added. But it is not only the air travellers that are bearing the brunt. Nigerian travel agents are also badly affected as their revenues also have dropped in recent weeks following the refusal of some foreign airlines to continue to sell tickets through these agents or directly in their Nigerian offices. But Medview Airlines, a local carrier that plies the Lagos-London route appears the greatest beneficiary of the ongoing crisis as it has experienced an upsurge in passenger patronage on the London route. High cost of tickets on the American and European carriers that have relocated to Ghana has forced most passengers flying to London to look the way of Medview.
Aviation analyst and Public Relations Consultant to the airline, Mr. Chris Aligbe, told Daily Sun that it was a delight for the management of the airline to have successfully stepped in to provide an alternative to travellers in Nigeria going to London. “Medview flights out of Lagos now are virtually fully booked. Sometimes there are no seats available on the Lagos-London route,” said Aligbe. “What Medview did was a timely investment. The airline also offers the best or right prices. I can tell you that on the average, the airline now gets an 85 per cent load factor,” Aligbe added. It was learnt that the decision to halt further financial transactions in Nigeria by some foreign airlines was due to some difficulties they had experienced in the last 10 months with the repatriation of funds or incomes made in Nigeria to their parent companies or overseas accounts due to foreign currency crunches.