The United Kingdom carrier British Airways says it is weighing its options and could withdraw its operations in Nigeria as it battles with currency controls and a weak Nigerian economy.
According to an article in Bloomberg, Country Manager for British Airways Kola Olayinka explains this is because the airline is currently struggling to repatriate its share of the $575 million that Nigeria currently owes to airlines globally from tickets sold in the country.
“Exiting Nigeria is a very big decision” and “not taken lightly” following London-based British Airways’ 80 years of operations in the country. “I believe very strongly that we will keep evaluating the situation, but I can assure you, BA is very committed to Nigeria.” Kola Olayinka.
While this may sound like a subtle threat, there are clear indications that the airline is seriously considering a withdrawal or at least a change to its daily flight operations in and outside Nigeria. The airline has already stopped using the Boeing 747 Dreamliner into Nigeria and replaced it with a smaller Boeing 777.
If the Federal Government eventually agrees to allow BA to repatriate its funds back to the UK, the airline stands the risk of loosing N3 to N5 billion assuming the CBN implements it’s new flexible currency policy.
Last April, Spanish national carrier Iberia, withdrew its services from Nigeria. This decision was based on the huge financial difficulties the airline was facing following the CBN’s capital controls as well as the poor economic situation in the country.
Also this week, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Chief Executive Officer Tony Tyler met with Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, where he warned in a statement that Lagos could lose its role as a hub to West Africa.