The new travel policy by France and Netherlands that travelers from Nigeria and other countries wishing to travel to the United Kingdom through Europe would have to obtain transit visas is unsettling nerves in Nigeria’s aviation circles.
While this ‘cumbersome’ travel to the UK through these two nations especially for long and short-stay visa holders is distorting travel plans as the difficulty could see British carriers smile all the way to the bank as many who would not be able to withstand the rigor of transit visa would prefer to patronize the two major British carriers, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways that operate to the country from Nigeria.
It is also an opportunity for Gulf carriers like Emirates, Qatar, and Etihad Airways to take advantage of the vacuum that may likely be created as a result of the new policy. It would have been an opportunity for Nigerian airlines to take advantage of the situation but there is no Nigerian airline currently operating the lucrative Lagos-London route.
It would be recalled that following the exit of the United Kingdom from Europe on December 31, 2020, Air France-KLM took a new measure by the reintroduction of airport transit visa requirements for citizens of certain nationalities including Nigeria and Ghana who hold a British visa, long-stay visa or a British residence permit and who are traveling to the UK. Passengers from 30 countries require ATVs before transiting to the UK from France or the Netherlands. Prior to this, passengers with a UK visa were technically traveling to the EU, removing the need for an ATV. However, the UK’s exit means these passengers will now be treated as traveling to a non-EU country.
A notice from Air-France-KLM dated December 29, 2020, captioned, “Travel on Air France or KLM to and from the United Kingdom after Brexit-January 1, 2021”, stated as from January 1, 2021, citizens of Nigeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Congo, Chad, Republic of Congo, Iran, Mali, Mauritania, Afghanistan, Haiti, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Turkey, Egypt, Senegal, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka, Armenia, Palestine who are holders of a British visa, long-stay visa or residence permit issued by the British authorities “will need to be in possession of an airport transit visa if they transit through France and or the Netherlands”
A former top official of British Airways, Mr. Ademola Sanya told AirInsight that even when the UK was with Europe, it still operated the transit visa for people going to Europe except for travelers that have a valid United States visa. He said the exit of the UK from Europe could have made the two nations re-introduce transit visa it canceled many years ago to make travel within and around Europe seamless coupled with economic gains their carriers derived from the cancellation of a transit visa for people moving in some cases from one point to another within the region. Sanya however said he was sure that the two nations might rescind the decision if it does not work out for them or one that would affect them economically.
Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Capt. Ado Sanusi that the new policy would have little effect on Nigerian travelers. “Passengers going to London or any part of Great Britain and they are going through Europe may have to pay a little extra and the reason is because you are taking a flight like when you land in Amsterdam or anywhere, the next one is purely domestic flight. With that introduction, I can see there might be a slight increase in international fares because of the Brexit”, he added.