by Lekan Olanrewaju
The Nigerian Government had earlier this week issued an ultimatum to British Airways and Virgin Atlantic regarding fares. Nigeria’s Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, had over the weekend given the airlines 30 days to adjust its fares to reflect equity with other prevailing fares in West Africa, or face a ban.
“We are seriously concerned and worried by the reluctance to restore parity within the region by the foreign airlines,” she said in a statement. “They have been using all kinds of delay tactics, this is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated… (we will) resolve this issue once and for all.”
The British Government has however said that such a ban would amount to “heavy-handed action that would be catastrophic.” and warned that retaliative actions would be taken if it were to take place.
Britain had on Monday night said only business and first class fares were more expensive to Nigeria than neighboring countries because of high demand for those seats and that banning BA and Virgin would break a bilateral air services agreement.
“It (the ban) would cause potential foreign investors to question whether they want to put their money in Nigeria and have a long-term and damaging effect on Nigeria’s growth,” the British High Commission spokesman said.
“The Prime Minister and President (Goodluck) Jonathan signed a joint communique last year pledging to double bilateral trade. Action against BA and Virgin would damage that strategic aim.”
This comes as Nigeria’s biggest carrier Arik Air announced it would be stopping its daily flights between Abuja and London Heathrow because it was being prevented from getting arrival and departure slots at UK airports.
A British Spokesman however said this was due to the inability of the airline to pay the cost of the slots. “It is wrong to suggest that Arik has been prevented from flying into Heathrow.” the British spokesman said. “Our understanding is that Arik is just unwilling to pay for the cost of renting or buying landing slots.”