As dollar shortage in the Nigerian economy continues to hit the air travel industry harder, foreign airlines flying into the country have stopped local travel agencies and firms from selling tickets to intending inbound Nigeria passengers
The carriers also barred Nigerian travel agencies from selling tickets to intending passengers whose travel itineraries neither originate nor terminate in Nigeria.
This is known in air travel parlance as SOTO ticket, meaning Sold Out, Ticketed Out.
The move is currently affecting many Nigerian students abroad who are seeking to buy tickets from Nigerian travel agents to come home for the Yuletide.
Majority of them are now being forced to consider buying their tickets from travel agencies based overseas.
The latest move by the international carriers follows their inability to repatriate their ticket sale proceeds running into several billions of naira in the last one year.
As of October, the International Air Transport Association (the global trade body for international airlines) said foreign carriers operating in Nigeria had been unable to repatriate about $207m in ticket sale proceeds to their various head offices abroad.
The Central Bank of Nigeria is rationing the sale of dollars to international airlines and other sectors of the economy as the country battles to meet dollar demands.
However, economic and financial experts have queried the rationale for the CBN’s rationing of the greenback when the nation’s external reserves are still above $40bn.
Local travel agencies told our correspondent that most of the foreign airlines stopped sale of SOTO tickets due to the exchange rate problems in Nigeria, which they said had made it difficult for them to repatriate their revenues.
“Most airlines don’t want to sell SOTO tickets again because of the exchange rate problem in Nigeria, which is affecting them; they couldn’t move their revenue out of Nigeria,” an official of Peacock Travels and Tours, a major local travel agency, said on condition of anonymity because she was not authorised to speak on the matter.
The official of another agency said aside from the difficulty in repatriating revenue, SOTO tickets might not pay the foreign carriers because of the international exchange rate among countries.
Findings by our correspondent revealed that British Airways stopped local travel firms from selling tickets to inbound Nigeria passengers about two weeks ago. BA also barred the local firms from selling SOTO tickets.
It was further learnt that other carriers including Lufthansa, Air France and KLM had joined in barring local travel agencies from selling SOTO tickets.