Nigeria’s tough aviation Minister Stella Oduah as finally cracked the whip. The authorities in Nigeria fined British Airways and Virgin Atlantic $235 million as the dispute over landing slots and ticket prices seemed to escalate last week. The dispute between the two countries began in October after Nigeria threatened to reduce British Airways’ service between London and Lagos, after the UK Government failed to allocate slots to Arik Air at London Heathrow Airport.
There has been a dispute over ticket prices with Nigeria complaining of regional imbalance in air fare on BA whereby passengers traveling from Lagos/Abuja to UK pay higher fares compared to passengers traveling from Accra to the UK.
Following a series of high level negotiations the British Airways offered to reduce lowest Business Class fare between Nigeria and UK by 20%, an offer that was rejected by Nigeria. The Nigerian government considered this insufficient and was still complaining about the regional disparity in air fare. According to the Minister “ We still strongly believe that this regional imbalance should be dismantled. In other words, BA should offer the same or similar fares from Nigeria to the UK as is the case in any other Equidistant destination within West Africa.”
The big winner in the week had been Arik Air. Seven landing slots per week at Heathrow Airport was secured for the Nigerian airline during the negotiations.
A deal this week means all flights will continue until the end of the year when the Nigerian government wants something done about the high ticket costs on British airlines.
Nigeria’s aviation ministry says British airlines charge far more to fly to Nigeria than to neighbouring Ghana, while it believes Arik Air should not have to pay high costs to land at Heathrow when Lagos airport doesn’t charge those fees.
Britain has said that it can’t control what private companies who control the airlines and airports charge but it is in constructive dialogue with the Nigerian government.