There appears to be no reprieve for British Airways yet as the Federal Government has taken steps to restrict all British Airways flights to Lagos from next week.
Although the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, cited operational reasons for the restriction, Vanguard gathered that it might be in connection with the current logjam between the Federal Government and its British counterpart over denial of slot allocations to Arik Air at Heathrow Airport in London.
The Federal Government had, Wednesday, reduced British Airways' weekly flight frequencies into the country from seven to three, citing the Bilateral Air Services Agreement, BASA, between both countries.
The British authorities said it took the decision to protect its airlines, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways, flying into the country.
It was learnt that the restriction was limited only to British Airways, fuelling speculations that the Federal Government's posture is in retaliation to the shabby treatment meted to Arik on its operations to Heathrow.
Arik Chairman, Sir Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide, had raised an alarm last week that he was compelled to pay for slots at London Heathrow, explaining that he had to rent landing slots from British Midland International at 14 million Pounds between 2009 and last year, a development which runs counter to the BASA between Nigeria and Britain.
Consequent upon the alarm rasied by Arik, Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Oduah, issued a statement, Wednesday, slashing British Airways' weekly frequencies to three.
But reacting to the development, yesterday, British Airways said FAAN's plan amounted to a further muzzle of its operations in Nigeria, wondering why the restriction was limited only to its operations.
he British Airways in a statement last night by
an Petrie, the airline's Regional Commercial Manager for Africa, said: "The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, has restricted British Airways flights to Lagos from next week. They have cited operational reasons for this imposition. It appears that British Airways is the only airline to be singled-out by these restrictions."
We are doing all we can to resolve this issue.
"The matter is now in the hands of the British Government which is speaking with the Nigerian authorities.
"The distribution of the slots at Heathrow is managed through an independent organisation, Airport Coordination Ltd (ACL). ACL manage slot allocation in a fair and transparent manner, where all airlines have the opportunity to be involved," British Airways said in a statement issued last night.
Ian Petrie, the airline's Regional Commercial Manager for Africa, said further: 'We remain committed to Nigeria and have had a presence in the country for over 75 years. We want to keep serving Nigeria and hope that the two governments resolve this issue with sensibility and as soon as possible.
"While we have robust contingency plans in place, any disruption will have an impact of travellers to and from Nigeria, as well as local suppliers," he said.
Stakeholders in the nation's aviation industry had always lamented Nigeria's ability to reciprocate the BASA between Nigeria and Britain on the London route, following the absence of a Nigerian carrier on the route until Arik Air emerged on the route.
The BASA gave both countries access to 21 frequencies on the route, which only the British carriers, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, had always exploited, with Nigeria receiving paltry royalties for having no carriers on the route.
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