Senate orders British Airways, Virgin Atlantic probe

The Senate Aviation Committee is to investigate alleged violations of Nigerian aviation laws and airfare disparity, put forward by the federal aviation authorities against the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, after an earlier government probe indicted both companies.

Both airlines, British owned, have come under rash scrutiny recently by the Ministry of Aviation. The Minister for Aviation, Stella Oduah, acting on the reports of a government investigation, has accused the two companies of discriminatory fares that disfavor Nigeria.

On Monday, Ms. Oduah gave the two airlines 30 days to lower the fares or face a ban from flying to Nigeria. The move has been welcomed by Nigerians, who in time past have alleged hostile treatment from the two airlines.

Reports which emerged from the Nigerian senate claim that while a  first class return fare is $10,816 and Abuja-London return flight is $10,144, the Accra-London equivalent is $4,798.

Britain said only business and first class fares were affected by the disparity because of high demand from Nigeria.

But that position appears perforated by comparisons between the London-Nigeria and London-United States routes.

A return economy ticket from London-New York is $625, London-Dallas is $787, London-Florida is $730 and London-Atlanta is $772. The four routes are separate nine-hour distances, while Economy Abuja-London route, a six hour trip is $1200.

The UK High Commission spokesperson quoted by Reuters has warned that Britain may take retaliatory actions against Nigerian airlines if the ban was imposed.

The senators said on Wednesday the sharp practices may have only succeeded with the connivance of local collaborators, and that the development has pushed many Nigerian travelers to Ghana, costing Nigeria about N3.7 billion in revenue losses.

“The Senate is worried that other foreign airlines are neck deep in similar sharp practices that have continued to deny the nation of substantial revenue, evn while exploiting Nigerians,” said Hope Uzodinma, (Imo West) who sponsored the motion with 29 others.

An amendment to the existing Civil Aviation Act 2006 is underway, to allow for wider punitive responses from federal aviation authorities in the event of established exploitation by foreign airlines, the lawmakers said.

Both airlines, as well as officials from the regulatory agencies, past and present are to be investigated by the senate committee in the next four weeks, the senate said.

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