The need to allow first-class and business-class passengers to buy tickets in dollars, while passengers in economy class can pay in naira, as a way of solving the squabble between Nigeria and foreign airlines over the carriers’ $464 million trapped forex, has been proposed to the Federal Government by one of the former Directors-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Dr. Harold Demuren.
Demuren revealed this during the Aviation Round Table second quarter 2022 Breakfast Business Meeting which was held in Lagos on Thursday with the theme: “Perspective in Multi-Layer Aviation Security System and Passenger Facilitation.”
According to him, doing this would help the carriers to repatriate their funds with ease and put a stop to the issue of trapped funds or, at best, help to significantly eliminate the problem.
Airlines on APG Interline Electronic Ticketing Agreements GP code 275 had, in April this year, disclosed that it would start issuing tickets in United States dollars and not naira. Demuren’s position is in alignment with foreign carriers who had initially planned to start asking passengers from Nigeria to start paying for their tickets in dollars.
According to the group, the new policy, was as a result of the difficulty in repatriating airlines’ huge funds stuck in Nigeria and other countries with the foreign exchange crisis.
Responding to questions whether allowing foreign airlines to charge dollars for first -class and business-class tickets would not amount to hurting national pride, Demuren said, “Listen to me, you must take emotions out of it. When people leave the shores of Nigeria, what do they spend? Naira? The people in the first-class and business-class are people who have money, and who can pay in dollars, but it is due to the current forex crisis.
“I know that there is a pride in national currency and I believe that there is a wide disparity between naira at the official and the parallel markets and one which leads to speculation. It is dangerous.
“This problem needs to be solved and we must stop this problem. Is your family abroad? Ok, will you go by boat to see them when the airlines stop operations? They have money, but they can’t take it out. It is not done in other places. You need to cut your losses. What I am saying is that we can solve it.”
He affirmed that the Minister of Aviation, DG NCAA, and Minister of Finance are working on it.
“Airlines have left and did not come back. At the end of the day, if they don’t get their returns, it is not good business for anybody to do. We have to face it. If the government has a solution, that is great. They must work together.
“This government didn’t cause it. It is a problem we have. If Nigeria is selling oil, we will have a lot of oil. We have to make sure we solve it together,” he added.