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British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic Nigeria have up to 30 days to lower their fares or face a ban from the Nigerian government.

Aviation Minister Stella Oduah, who made this known in a statement Monday, said the airlines would be banned from flying to other West African nations if they did not oblige to the directive.

But Britain has reacted to the directive by saying it could take retaliatory action against Nigerian airlines if the ban was imposed.

According to Ms Oduah, it was unfair that BA and Virgin Atlantic charged more to fly to Nigeria than to other West African countries.

Nigeria’s civil aviation authority last year fined the two airlines an amount of $235 million collectively for price fixing, but both airline operators denied the accusation.

The aviation minister noted that Nigeria was seriously concerned and worried by the reluctance of the airlines to restore parity within the region.

She said the airlines had been employing all manner of delay tactics, which were unacceptable and intolerable.

According to UK’s aviation authorities, only business and first class fares were more expensive for Nigeria than neighbouring countries because of the high demand for those seats. Banning BA and Virgin Atlantic therefore would break a bilateral air services agreement between the two countries.

The British High Commission has also noted that the ban could cause potential foreign investors to change their decision towards investing in Nigeria.

It further said President Goodluck Jonathan, last year signed a joint communiqué pledging to double bilateral trade with the UK, and therefore the action against the two airlines would damage that strategic aim.

The fare dispute is running parallel to another row between Nigeria and Britain over airport landing slots, and this is evidenced by Nigeria’s biggest carrier Arik Air’s announcement this month that it would stop its daily flights between Abuja and London, Heathrow, because it was being prevented from getting arrival and departure slots at UK airports.

It is not known what the stance of Ghanaian aviation authorities would be like on the issue since a similar situation was unfolding in Ghana.
Source: Daily Guide

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