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Uncertainty grips airlines over forex

Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA logo

There seems to be unease in the airline industry over uncertainty in the foreign exchange market amidst concern that the rate could further skyrocket as 2019 progresses.

This concern was raised, yesterday, by the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Med-View Airline PLC, Alhaji Muneer Bankole, who chaired the first quarter business breakfast meeting of the Aviation Roundtable and Safety Initiative (ART) held in Lagos.

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The focus was on ‘Nigerian Travel Agencies Challenges and Regulations’ as stakeholders raised alarm over what they called existential threat to the travel agencies’ business in the country.

The National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA) said the regulatory authority, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), had no inputs in the operations of travel agencies in the country.

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The Med-View MD recalled that when he ventured into airline business, there were 26 airlines operating but majority of them have gone under, saying the NCAA must be genuinely concerned about the demise of airlines.

He said there was need for government to consolidate the charges because the local operators were dying because of many charges.

But he is more concerned about the forex rate. He said while the exchange rate was N150 to a dollar in 2015, it is now over N360 and there were fears the rate could reach N500 this year.

He charged government to be proactive enough to arrest the trend as any further rate increase would impact negatively on airline business.

President of NANTA Bankole Bernard, who was the guest speaker, disclosed that 813 travel agents sold N565bn worth of tickets in 2018 alone through the Billing Settlement Platform (BSP) of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

He however lamented that IATA dictated the tune of the market from international perspective without input of the local regulatory authority.

According to him, there is no local law that protects the travel agencies which he described as the most critical sector in the industry.

“Travel agency business should be very profitable but things have not been the way they should be, not because of technology, but due to inconsistency and poor regulatory system,” he said.

But the Director General of NCAA, Capt. Muhtar Usman, represented by the Director of Air Transport Regulations, Group-Capt. Edem Ita, noted that only 157 out of over 3,000 travel agencies operating were registered with the NCAA.

President of ART Elder Gbenga Olowo said the Nigerian travel agencies were facing extinction, saying they must be protected with the regulations to save thousands of jobs in the sector.

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