There is disparity in the fares paid by travellers who board British Airways (BA) from Nigeria and travellers from other countries, especially in the West Coast.
Nigerians, for instance, pay higher fares for flights to London airports than their counterparts who fly from Accra in Ghana, irrespective of the fact that the distance from Accra to London is longer than from either Abuja or Lagos to London.
This disparity is more pronounced in the business and first-class tickets, however. Only recently, the federal government gave the airline a 30-day ultimatum to adjust its fares on the Nigerian routes or face sanctions. The House of Representatives has also endorsed the position of government.
It is confounding that the BA authorities have refused to renegotiate the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) they signed with Nigeria since 1988. This BASA, which was initiated and signed during the dark days of military rule in Nigeria, is heavily skewed in favour of Britain.
After almost a quarter of a century of the existence of this agreement, it would be in the interest of the parties involved to review it.
It is a standard convention that bilateral agreements should be reviewed after at least 10 years. The minister of aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, voiced her frustration recently when she remarked, "Each time we try to review it, they (British aviation authorities) refuse to sign because they think we are the only ones who need them."
If the British aviation authorities mean well for Nigeria, they should accept without any hesitation the review of the BASA. Apart from paying relatively higher fares, Nigerian air travellers suffer undignified treatment on some foreign airlines. This includes restricting them to a select menu list. It is unacceptable that some foreign aviation authorities should disrespect and treat Nigerians as second-class citizens, a sad reminder of the colonial days.
While this impasse is being addressed, it is time Nigerian air travellers, especially public officeholders, discarded their appetite for first-class and business-class seats.
BA and other foreign airlines must have noticed the profligacy of Nigerian public officials and have been taking advantage of this. The Nigerian government will do well to stop paying the travelling expenses of officials who cannot travel on economy class. It does not show that we as a people are conscious of the challenges before us.