Nigerian authorities only have themselves to blame for price fixing farce

Written by Mark Avery on Friday, 17 February 2012. Posted in News from 2012, Mark's blog

Highlights need for an open flights market in Nigeria

A Nigerian judicial panel has overturned fines totalling £149m dished out by the country's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic for alleged price fixing on flights between the UK and Nigeria.

The two airlines had been accused of overcharging and colluding on prices during the mid-90s. The case was originally thrown out years ago, but a recent spat over Nigerian airline Arik Air's attempts to get landing slots at London Heathrow resulted in the issue returning once more as the Abuja Government desperately searched for ways to punish the "arrogant colonials" (Heathrow owners BAA) for having the temerity to charge Arik market rates to use the world's most busiest international airport.

Nigerians such as my father in law rightly complain about the extortionate prices charged for direct flights between the UK and Africa's most populous country. For example, flights to Lagos from London can cost twice as much as services to other destinations in West Africa such as Accra in Ghana. Unfortunately the Anglo-Nigerian bilateral flights agreement has absolutely no governance over fares, leaving BA and Virgin free to charge however much they like until some decent competition comes along. And, no, I don't consider Arik decent competition. Arik's fares are not much cheaper than their British rivals, mainly because of their ludicrous insistence on using Heathrow instead of Gatwick or Stansted, both of which have far cheaper landing fees.

There would be sufficient demand for at least four carriers to operate multiple daily flights on the core London to Lagos route if average fares hovered around the £350 to £400 mark, but it is up to the Nigerians to find their own Michael O'Leary (Ryanair) of Tony Fernandes (Air Asia) to exploit the potential for this massive market without political interference.

If the politicians are going to get involved, the first question they should be asking is why Lagos's Murtala Muhammed International airport – which could and perhaps should be Africa's leading flights hub – attracts just 5.5 million passengers per year? To put that into perspective, Bristol Airport (which serves a population 1/15th the size of Lagos) handles almost six million passengers per annum.

About the Author

Mark Avery

Mark Avery

Mark Avery wanted to be a Concorde pilot, but being colour blind put a halt to that particular career path. The demise of Concorde didn't help matters either! He took up journalism instead. Following a stint moaning about Coventry City's plight for a living, the dad of two girls is now is in charge of all things editorial at flightmapping.com.

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