Airlines’ staff, touts cash in on plane shortage

Airlines’ staff and touts are making money off the current plane shortage being experienced at airports, BusinessDay’s findings have revealed.

According to findings, tickets of passengers unable to board are sold to highest bidders at terminals during flight departures.

Secondly, staff of airlines block seats on their websites, preventing passengers from making bookings. These unscrupulous staff, in turn, sell the tickets at higher rates at airport terminals.

Also, touts buy tickets from airlines only to resell at higher rates to desperate passengers using fake ID cards to perpetrate their illegalities

In addition to this, airlines sell business class and premium tickets as one-way economy class tickets to passengers at rates ranging from N350,000 to N450,000. Passengers only to discover onboard that they have been given economy seats and not business class seats.

A visit by BusinessDay to domestic airport terminals such as Murtala Muhammed Airport Two (MMA2) and General Aviation Terminal (GAT) showed that some airline staff connive with touts acting as airport cleaners or trolley staff to pay for tickets using private point of sales (POS) machines, instead of paying across the counters.

As a result, passengers pay between N230,000 to N300,000 for a one-way ticket from Lagos to frequently flown destinations such as Abuja, Port Harcourt, Owerri, Enugu Asaba and Kano.

Also, airlines are being accused of shutting boarding gates 40 minutes to one hour before take-off time, denying passengers their rights to fly, while tickets are still being sold to the highest bidders.

“I was at MMA2 on Sunday by 5.30pm, but my flight from Lagos to Abuja was scheduled to depart at 6.10pm. I was surprised when the airline staff told me I was already late for my flight and could not board. However, right in front of me, tickets were still being issued to other passengers,” Dipo Omoba, an intending passenger of one of the airlines, told BusinessDay.

According to Omoba, when he confronted the airline staff, they said the tickets being sold were for few passengers boarding another flight.

“I confronted the airline but they lied by saying the tickets being sold were for a second flight. When I asked that my ticket be changed to the second flight, they said it was too late to do that,” Omoba said.

Obed Umuenyin, a regular traveller, told BusinessDay that he initially couldn’t board a plane for his Sunday flight from Lagos to Abuja.

“I bought a ticket for N250,000 through a contact within the terminal, despite being initially told the check-in time had closed,” Umuenyin said.

Femi Osunlusi, a traveller who missed his flight, said with fewer flights and high demand, “We feel we are victims of ticket racketeering by officials. I got to the airport around 45 minutes before boarding time, yet I could not get in. They’re reselling tickets at vastly inflated prices, preying on the desperation of travellers,” Femi Osunlusi, a regular traveller who missed his flight on Sunday evening, told BusinessDay.

BusinessDay observed that touts within the MM2 terminal approached unsuspecting passengers for the procurement of air tickets.

“One of the touts approached me and asked if I could sell my seat to a security official sitting on a chair opposite my directions for N300,000. I turned them down, but I was quite shocked when I found the same man on the plane when we landed in Abuja,” Ordola Adeola, a media consultant with ezone-Africa, said.

One of the racketeers, called Clement, told BusinessDay that he was merely assisting the passengers who did not have the patience to go through the rigours of obtaining tickets and boarding passes

“Some people like things to be done for them, even what they can do by themselves. They have excess money, so let us also share from it,” Clement said.

BusinessDay had, last week, reported that in the last few months, few aircraft have had to feed several passengers on domestic routes as Nigerian airlines struggled with fleet reduction as a result of high cost of maintenance.

Airlines that have sent their aircraft on maintenance are unable to return them due to the skyrocketing maintenance costs fueled by foreign exchange scarcity.

Some airlines have been forced by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to ground their aircraft for inability to send their aircraft for maintenance, BusinessDay’s checks show.

In addition to these, the grounding of Dana Air, a relatively low-cost carrier which had six aircraft in its fleet, has also impacted on the fleet operating the domestic routes.

Data obtained by BusinessDay from NCAA on Thursday showed that 13 domestic airlines operating in Nigeria which include Aero, Air Peace, Arik, Azman, Dana, Green Africa, Ibom Air, Max Air, NG Eagle, Overland, Reno Air, United Nigeria Airline and Value Jet put together operate a total of 91 aircraft. This data includes aircraft that have gone on maintenance.

Sources close to the NCAA told BusinessDay that apart from Dana Air that has been grounded, over half of the 91 aircraft have gone on maintenance, putting a strain on the few operating aircraft.

BusinessDay’s checks show that five years ago, when just 10 domestic airlines operated on Nigerian routes, they had over 120 fleets.

Olumide Ohunayo, industry analyst and director, Research, Zenith Travels, told BusinessDay that there are fewer seats chasing the same number of passengers.

He said passengers have not increased but the seats have reduced by virtue of the shutting down of Dana Air and the foreign exchange crisis affecting aircraft leasing arrangements and maintenance.

“Once fares are high in Nigeria, racketeering both unofficially and officially, comes into play. You see touts conniving with some airport staff to block seats ahead, only to sell on that day at exorbitant prices. Anyone paying for tickets on the counter now will meet a mess because passengers are eager to travel,” Ohunayo said.

He said some airlines send messages to passengers telling them the flight will be going ahead of their scheduled time of departure but the messages come at a time when it is difficult for passengers to meet up.

John Ojikutu, industry expert and the CEO of Centurion Aviation Security and Safety Consult, said: “Whatever is happening now has to do with the negligence of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on the oversight and enforcement of the economic regulations. There is a low level as well as high level of tariffs approved by the NCAA for domestic flights tickets. These are based on the various services provided,” he said.

He noted that these issues are often neglected and the Consumer Protection Department of the NCAA, which pretends not to know what is happening. “This is nothing but institutional corruption,” Ojikutu said.

However, Michael Achimugu, Director, Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, NCAA, said there is no denying the fact that touts exist at the airports, noting that this is why the minister has set up a taskforce to eliminate some of these issues.

“On our part, the NCAA is looking towards enforcing the use of national IDs for checking in passengers. That way, touts who buy tickets from airlines only to resell at higher rates to others (while quickly printing fake ID cards for them at the airport) will be put out of business,” Achimugu said.

He said passengers also have a responsibility not to accept to be part of the fraudulent ID situation.

Leave comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By :
Translate »
Buy Website Traffic [wpforms id="30483"] [bws_google_captcha]

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)

Follow by Email