The British Government has vowed to retaliate in kind if Nigeria makes good its threat to ban British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic (VA), among others, over discriminatory fares which Nigerians are being made to pay.
On Sunday, Nigeria’s Aviation Minister Stella Oduah gave all foreign airlines operating in the country a 30-day ultimatum to end the discriminatory practice that sees Nigerian passengers paying higher fares than other passengers in West Africa.
She said any international airline operating in Nigeria which failed to dismantle the fare imbalance and other sharp practices within the next 30 days would be banned from operating in the country.
But the local media Tuesday quoted a spokesman of the British High Commission in Nigeria as saying banning private airlines would amount to a “heavy-handed action that would be catastrophic”.
Britain also said it would not hesitate to retaliate if the Nigerian government goes ahead with the threat to ban its airlines after 30 days.
“It (the ban) would cause potential foreign investors to question whether they want to put their money in Nigeria and have a long-term and damaging effect on Nigeria’s growth,” the unnamed British High Commission spokesman said.
“The Prime Minister and President Goodluck Jonathan signed a joint communique last year pledging to double bilateral trade. Action against BA and Virgin would damage that strategic aim,” the spokesman said.
On the discriminatory fares, Britain said only business and first class fares were more expensive to Nigerians than neighbouring countries because of high demand for those seats.
PANA reports that a one-way, first class fare along the Lagos-London route is US$5,408, whereas the same booking for a passenger on the Accra-London route is US$2,399.
Also, a one-way, business class fare on the Lagos-London route is US$3,685, compared to the US$2,049 on the same booking on the Accra-London route.
The fare dispute comes as another row between Nigeria and Britain over airport landing slots has yet to be resolved.
Nigeria’s biggest airlines Arik Air has suspended its daily flights between the capital city of Abuja and London Heathrow because it was being prevented from getting arrival and departure slots at UK airports.
A fine of US$235 million slammed on BA and VA by the Nigerian government last year, for alleged price-fixing on the Nigeria-UK route, was overturned on appeal.