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Qatar Airways, Hajj operators clash over N296m ticket refund - PUNCH

JUNE 03, 2024

BY  Olasunkanmi Akinlotan

Thirteen travel agencies and their clients are ready for a showdown with Qatar Airways for allegedly refusing to implement N296m ticket refund since 2022.

According to a document obtained by The PUNCH, 13 Hajj agents have paid varying sums to the Qatar flag carrier for air tickets for the 2022 Hajj exercise but the clients could not fly as planned because the Saudi Arabian Embassy did not issue visas to the intending pilgrims.

Our correspondent gathered that the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria was intimated with the situation through a letter dated June 21, 2022.

The National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies and the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority had also waded into the matter on several occasions but their efforts had yet to yield any fruit as the airline remained reportedly adamant over the refund.

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While 12 travel agents paid the airline N252,408,123 for the botched trip, another agent, Al-Yusuf Travels, also paid N43,874,024 to the airline, bringing the total ticket cost to N296,282,147.

The other affected travel agents included: Meeqat Travels and Tours N19,028,269; Fatimoh Olabisi Travels,  N15,018,014; Amami Global Links, N15,650,000; Light Upon Light Travels, N22,200,000; Albaratullahi Travels, N43,447,580; Olagunju Travels, N21,632,203;  Bolade Travels, N31,804,720;  Ashabul Yameen Travels, 15,990,727; Koki Travels, N20,664,000; New Crescent Travels, N27,740,070; Al Hidayah Travels, 11,520,000 and Niyyat Travels also paid N7,712,540.

Meanwhile, findings by our correspondent showed that the top echelons of the airline in Nigeria claimed that the refund approval was subject to the willingness of higher-ranking officers at the headquarters of the airline in Qatar.

Also in a demand letter written to the carrier by the solicitor to the travel agencies sighted by our correspondent, the law firm demanded an immediate refund of the tickets money at the instance of the clients.

The legal document read in part, “Our clients have informed us that on 24 January 2024, a resolution meeting was convened between the management of Qatar Airways and National Association of Nigeria Traveling Agencies, executives and our clients at the board room of Qatar Airways whereof requests were made and same responded to by Qatar Airways management.

“With a total amount being N252,408,123 (two hundred and fifty-two million four hundred and eight thousand one hundred and twenty-three naira only). This amount excludes the amount of air ticket paid to your organisation by another operator Al-YusufTravels, which is N43,874,024 and which is currently been litigated over at the Federal High Court in suit number FCH/L/CS/2483/23.”

It added, “It is worthy to mention that despite the intervention of the National Haji Commission of Nigeria and The President of the National Association of Nigeria Travelling Agencies for a swift resolution of this matter since 2022 your organisation has been foot-dragging and playing all forms of delay tactics that would warrant refusal of refund to the unused air ticket payments.

“It is equally within our brief that our clients logged a complaint of your ineptitude and utmost neglect of their plight in September 2023 at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority Ikeja Lagos, while in October 2023 a meeting was called at the office of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Director General Dr Chris Najomo in which the Representatives of Qatar Airways (led by Mr Henry and others) were in attendance and our clients.”

One of the affected travel agents, who pleaded anonymity because he wasn’t officially empowered to speak on behalf of the concerned agents, noted that it was clear that the airline was not interested in refunding the money.

“By the actions and reactions of their representatives in Nigeria, they are not willing to pay us back except if something drastic, such as picketing is effected on them,” he stated.

Another agent, Fatai Tijani, who claimed to be at the forefront of the recovery fight, said that they were frustrated about the development.

Tijani, however, added that the airline was employing all forms of delay tactics to avoid the ticket refund.

He further said, “Through a meeting where we engaged with them on Friday, it was very glaring that they want to eat the money at all cost and trying to create the propaganda that it was because the tickets were not cancelled and that made them lose money when, in actual reality, all the flights were fully booked on the days concerned and the letter from the President of the National Hajj Commission stated that clearly.

“We are specifically instructing and pleading with them to refund our money to us for God’s sake!”

The coordinator of the affected agents, Kaseem Taoreed, expressed disappointment in the airline, describing the scenario as a clear disregard for the sovereignty and laws of Nigeria.

While speaking with our correspondent over the phone, Taoreed stated that the same scenario played out in Ghana but the airline immediately paid the concerned agents.

Taoreed added that some agents had been in and out of the police stations because the airline refused to make the refund.


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