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 The PUNCH 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.