The reciprocity policy being enforced by Nigeria that shut out some European nations’ carriers from operating into the country, is taking a huge toll on many Nigerians. Those affected by the policy are passengers that already booked on the airlines with preparation to coming home or leaving the country immediately resumption of international flights was announced. This is coming amid 1,280 reduced capacity some airlines cleared for Abuja and Lagos were handed, which has further limited they can carry coupled with staggered schedule.

Passengers to France, Netherlands and Germany are said to seek alternative bookings with Virgin Atlantic, which has been cleared, but slated its resumption to September 24, while British Airways had already begun flight services to Nigeria. Consequently, the action has led to astronomical rise in fares by nearly 100 per cent as many of the barred carriers endorsed their already booked passengers on British Airways, Emirates, and Delta, among others.

But a source in the Presidency, who spoke to New Telegraph under condition of anonymity, said government was more concerned with curtailing the virus and preventing a second shutdown of the airspace rather than economic benefits for now. The Federal Government had, last week, barred Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Etihad Airways, Angolan TAG, Air Namibia and Royal Air Maroc from operating flights into Nigeria. Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, listed British Airways, Emirates, Ethiopian, AWA, and Middle East Airlines as airlines permitted into the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

He also listed Egyptair, Virgin Atlantic, Turkish Airlines, AWA, Kenya Airways and Middle East Airlines as airlines allowed to operate into Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. Explaining the reasons for the ban and the principle of reciprocity being applied to some countries, Sirika said Nigeria was simply following what each country had done to the country.

He said the country would go ahead and implement the principle of reciprocity to all countries that had banned flights from Nigeria. Some of the countries, which had banned flights from Nigeria, are in the European Union as the EU included Nigeria on the banned countries on July 1st when they opened their airspace. Managing Director, Tour Brokers International, Mrs. Uloma Egbuna, said the implication was not just for people booked to travel to Europe, she stated that it was for every traveller. According to her, “For those who are booked to travel to Europe, it is the responsibility of the European carriers to endorse them to other airlines.

What is happening now is that a number of them are being endorsed on British Airways which is why BA is fully booked at the moment. “For people on Air France, KLM, for example, who are going to the U.S., they are endorsing them on Delta Airlines. You know that KLM-Air France and Delta have a partnership or alliance. They are endorsing them to Delta.” She noted that the implication of the policy had made air fares to be very expensive.

“You can imagine getting an economy ticket to London for over N800,000. Even in peak period, you never get that type of fare for economic ticket to London. But for now, just to book a ticket to London on return on BA is over N800,000. On Emirates Airline, which is usually the cheapest, it is as high as N600,000, Virgin Atlantic is over N700,000. “It is outrageous. It is all happening because of this. It is not just affecting those already booked to travel to Europe, it is affecting general travelling public.

Fares are so high at this point in time,” she told New Telegraph. President, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Susan Akporiaye, corroborated Egbuna, stressing that there was not much in terms of capacity from the three zones of Europe barred by the Federal Government.

Akporiaye said: “Of course, it is going to create scarcity because these few airlines are not going to be enough. We are still going to have scarcity of seats, meaning the fares are going to be high.” Managing Director of Touchdown Travels and General Sales Agent (GSA) for British Airways, Mr. Dayo Adeola, however, disagreed that it had major implication for air travel. According to him, “Most Nigerians don’t go to Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt; they are just passing by. They will give the other carriers opportunity to carry them, but in terms of the Nigerian market, they are technically in low season now.

It does not have much impact for now because the other countries of the world have not opened.” A former President of NANTA, Mr. Bernard Bankole, said the key word in aviation was safety, adding that the Federal Government was more concerned with safety. Bankole stated that the restriction was expected to be eased in a matter of days, stressing that nobody should fault government for adopting safety measures in the fight against the pandemic by reducing airlines’ capacity.

“The airlines may be losing money, may be operating below capacity. It is a temporary measure. If in another three weeks it is like this, then, there is a problem. “We have engaged the Director- General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and we have gotten approval in principle to make an adjustment because at the end of the day, what you and I should be thinking is to curtail the spread of COVID-19 through our airports. “We might be forced to shut down again if it happens again which will not be to the benefit of any of us.”

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