Forex crisis: Passengers groan as foreign airlines hike fares

Forex crisis: Passengers groan as foreign airlines hike fares
Currency dealer at work

Travellers are expressing their disappointment and frustrations as airfares continue to skyrocket, making it increasingly difficult for individuals to embark on their desired trips. The rising costs, coupled with economic uncertainties, have left many passengers in a state of dismay.

About two weeks after President Bola Tinubu promised to unify the nation’s multiple exchange rates, the apex bank decided to float the naira at the Investor’s and Exporters’ Window of the foreign exchange market. Since then, the naira had fallen from N471/dollar to N867/$.

With this development, Nigerians, particularly, intending international students hoping to resume school in September, had been greatly impacted by the unpredictable fluctuations in foreign exchange rates.

The prices of air tickets had skyrocketed, making it increasingly difficult for Nigerians to travel, especially when compared to neighbouring countries such as Benin and Ghana, where airfares are notably cheaper.

The current policy of floating the Naira had done little to alleviate the situation. As the exchange rate continued to rise, most foreign airlines’ funds were trapped within Nigeria, due to a scarcity of dollars in the market. This scenario created a problematic landscape for Nigerians who depended on reasonably priced flights to go about their business.

In an exclusive chat with media source in Abuja, Ade Johnson, a potential traveller, noted that although he had not yet booked his flight, he had noticed a significant increase in prices compared to a few months earlier.

He disclosed that many Nigerians had started exploring alternative options. One popular choice was to travel via the Benin Republic, where airfares were considerably cheaper. Additionally, the proximity of Benin Republic to Lagos, with a travel time of less than an hour, mades it an enticing proposition for cost-conscious travellers.

He said, “Though, I have not booked my flight, prices have gone up compared to what was obtainable some months ago. Lagos to London was around 350k in May for the airline I booked, but the same route goes for 750k or more now.

“The best alternative option is to travel through Benin republic where air tickets are cheaper and it’s less than an hour drive from Lagos.”

Moreover, the Fx situation had created additional challenges for Nigerian students, including increased payment for tuition fees, visa expenses, the International Health Surcharge, and the need to provide proof of funds for maintenance and upkeep.

Previously, Nigerian students utilised Form A for tuition payments, which was pegged at a fixed rate controlled by the Central Bank of Nigeria. However, the current circumstances had altered this arrangement, leading to further financial burdens for students.

Sharing her experience, Success Apiaka, a traveller impacted by the recent increase and fluctuation in foreign currency rates, expressed his frustration with the effect it has had on her travel plans and budget, adding that she was forced to reassess and make significant adjustments to his financial planning to accommodate the unforeseen changes.

Apiaka recounted the challenges she faced, stating, “The recent increase and fluctuation in foreign currency has affected my travelling plans, especially considering the amount I had originally budgeted for the process. I had to go back to my drawing board to replan and find the best way to achieve my travel goal. This meant cutting down on a lot of expenses, including food, clothing, and family-related costs, in order to meet the current exchange rate and make the most of every penny I have.”

Fortunately for Apiaka, being knowledgeable in economics, she anticipated the economic difficulties ahead and took proactive measures to secure her travel plans. She booked her flight as early as May after paying her tuition, having learned from past experiences with using Form A for foreign currency transactions.

“I had to cut down a lot of my expenses in terms of feeding, clothing, family, etc just to ensure I can meet up to the current rate, utilise every single penny that comes my way.

She said the mental stress that came with the entire process, the wait is really not easy, process and all. For the financial aspect, I would say a little because this is something I have been preparing for although not at this current rate but so far I must say the mental stress was quite overwhelming at some point.

Another affected traveller, Aisha Abdullahi told our correspondent that currency fluctuations and the single exchange rate policy were affecting her travel plans, strewing that with her intended budget of N12m, now only yielding 12,000 pounds instead of the expected 24,000 pounds.

Abdullahi had been forced to consider alternative arrangements to make up for the significant financial hurdle, noting that said she had to explore selling off properties and liquidating investments.

She highlights the drastic change in flight prices, with a return ticket now costing between N800,000 to over N1m, compared to the previous rates of N300,000 and above.

“I’m considering flying through Benin Republic, Contonu Airport to be precise but I’m trying to weigh the prons and coins that are involved because moving my things from my base in Abuja down to Lagos means incurring some expenses like paying for excess luggage to Lagos.

“So, I will put all this together and compare it with the air ticket in Cotonou then that would give me a clear picture of what I want and make my decision.”

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