Saturday, April 07, 2012

Battle For The Sky: Nigeria Takes On The Big Boys

African governments will have gleefully pulled up a chair to watch a riveting battle between Nigeria’s aviation regulator and powerful blue-eyed foreign carriers in what analysts say could trigger a new era of tighter and unpredictable regulation in the $67.8 billion regional air industry.

Nigeria accuses major international airlines plying its routes–chiefly British Airways and Virgin Atlantic– of overcharging its citizens and gave them a 30-day ultimatum, effective March 26, to redress perceived air imbalances or be barred from operating in its airspace.

Industry watchers say African airlines flying to Nigeria were unlikely to be affected by the directive that was clearly targeted at the two giants, which Abuja insists made profits by the bucketload at the expense of Nigerians, forcing some to even travel to neighbouring capitals to take advantage of lower fares to the same destinations– ironically by the same carriers.

It is a continuation of a damaging spat between Nigeria and the British Government over landing rights at Heathrow for local carrier Arik Air and which forced the young airline to last month suspend its flights from Abuja to London.

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