The Senate Committee on Aviation has ordered the British Airways and the Virgin Atlantic Airways to pay a fine of $135 million and $100 million respectively for conspiring to fix prices at the expense of Nigeria, operating a duopoly to the detriment of other airlines and engaging in the passenger fuel surcharge scam.
The committee, in its report on the violation of aviation laws and practice by foreign airlines and lapses in the operations of regulatory agencies, on Tuesday ordered the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to work with the Ministry of Justice and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to compel both airlines to pay the fines in line with the Civil Aviation Act 2006.
Presenting the report, the Chairman of the Committee, Hope Uzodinma said both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways were found guilty of the offences.
It also recommended that government officials travelling abroad should mandatorily use Nigerian flag carriers and charged the Aviation Ministry to work with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to enlighten the public on the imperative of flying national flag carriers.
The committee also recommended that the Aviation Ministry be engaged on its plan to float an indigenous national carrier, saying “Arik Airline with over 26 new aircrafts in their fleet and any other local airline with similar capacity which must have operated in Nigeria for a minimum of five years should be granted national flag carrier status”.
The proposal to grant Arik airline the national flag carrier status did not go down well with some lawmakers who argued that the Federal government should rather build its own airline.
The Senate President, David Mark queried the regulatory agencies for failing to protect Nigerians from the exploitation of foreign airlines.
“We need to do our homework before blaming the airlines. Nigerians expect us to protect them. Let nobody exploit Nigerians. The British Airways and the Virgin Atlantic Airways have exploited Nigerians. The regulatory agencies are the problems. They’ve failed in what they’re supposed to do. As weak as the laws are, they are not being implemented. We’ve problems with implementing the laws we put in place,” he said.
Some lawmakers argue that the committee’s report does not address the mandate given to the committee.
The senate resolved to consider the recommendations on another legislative day.