Airline Staff and Touts Exploit Plane Shortage, BusinessDay Reveals

The current shortage of planes at Nigerian airports has created an opportunity for airline staff and touts to exploit desperate passengers, according to findings by BusinessDay.

At domestic terminals such as Murtala Muhammed Airport Two (MMA2) and General Aviation Terminal (GAT), it was observed that the tickets of passengers unable to board are being sold to the highest bidders during flight departures.

In addition, airline staff have been blocking seats on their websites, preventing legitimate bookings, only to sell these tickets at inflated prices at airport terminals. Touts have also been purchasing tickets from airlines to resell at higher rates using fake ID cards.

Passengers have reported paying between N230,000 to N300,000 for a one-way ticket from Lagos to popular destinations like Abuja, Port Harcourt, Owerri, Enugu, Asaba, and Kano. Some passengers have also been deceived into buying business class and premium tickets, only to find themselves seated in economy class once on board.

A visit by BusinessDay to MMA2 and GAT revealed that some airline staff are colluding with touts who pose as airport cleaners or trolley staff. These touts use private point of sale (POS) machines to purchase tickets, bypassing the official payment counters.

Passengers have accused airlines of closing boarding gates 40 minutes to an hour before takeoff, denying them the right to board while still selling tickets to the highest bidders.

“I was at MMA2 on Sunday at 5.30 pm for my 6.10 pm flight to Abuja, but the airline staff told me I was too late to board,” said Dipo Omoba, an intending passenger. “However, I saw tickets still being issued to other passengers.”

When Omoba confronted the airline staff, they claimed the tickets were for another flight. “They lied, saying the tickets were for a second flight. When I asked to change my ticket, they said it was too late,” he added.

Obed Umuenyin, a regular traveler, shared a similar experience. “I bought a ticket for N250,000 through a contact at the terminal, even though I was initially told the check-in time had closed,” he said.

Another passenger, Femi Osunlusi, who missed his flight, said, “With fewer flights and high demand, we feel like victims of ticket racketeering by officials. I got to the airport 45 minutes before boarding time but couldn’t get in. They’re reselling tickets at vastly inflated prices, preying on desperate travelers.”

BusinessDay also observed touts within the MM2 terminal approaching unsuspecting passengers to sell air tickets. “One tout asked if I could sell my seat for N300,000 to a security official. I declined, but I was shocked to see the same man on the plane when we landed in Abuja,” said Ordola Adeola, a media consultant with ezone-Africa.

The findings highlight the urgent need for regulatory oversight and enforcement to protect passengers from exploitation in the face of the ongoing plane shortage.

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