By Chinedu Eze
The Federal Government has given the British Airways (BA), Virgin Atlantic Airways (VNA) and all international airlines operating in the country a 30-day ultimatum beginning from today to dismantle the regional fare imbalance between what Nigerian passengers pay for international flights and their counterparts in the West African sub-region.
The ultimatum was issued in a statement signed by the Federal Ministry of Aviation and signed by Special Adviser to the Minister on Media, Mr. Joe Obi, where it warned that failure to revert the fares would mean that such arlines would face an immediate ban from operating in Nigeria.
The statement recalled that in the wake of the impasse between British Airways and Arik Air regarding the denial of landing slots to the latter at London Heathrow airport, the Ministry had, in addition to facilitating the landing rights of Arik Air in Heathrow, waded into the huge fare disparity in the sub-region and demanded fare parity from BA,VNA and other international airlines operating in the country.
The statement also said BA and VNA had particularly asked for more time to conduct its own study on the alleged fare disparity, promising to report back to the Ministry last December.
“But worried by the obvious delay tactics on the part of the two British carriers, Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah, weekend said any international airline operating in Nigeria which fails to dismantle this fare imbalance, as well as other sharp practices within the next 30 days would be banned from operating in Nigeria.”
The minister said: “We are seriously concerned and worried by the reluctance to restore parity within the region by the foreign airlines. They have been using all kinds of delay tactics; this is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated. Nigerian passengers do not deserve this kind of exploitation and we are willing and ready to stand up for their rights.”
The minister also said Nigeria remained an important and lucrative route for the international airlines, remarking that anyone not ready to treat Nigerians with equity and dignity would be barred from operating in the country.
“In the interim, we encourage Nigerian travellers to avail themselves of other competitive alternatives while we try to address and resolve this issue once and for all,” she added.
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