Mr. Olasukanmi Dada is the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Lagos-based travel agency, Wireless Aviation Services. In this interview with KENNEDY MBELE, the 55-year-old tour broker, among other issues, explains why travel agencies do not process visa for their clients
What is Wireless Aviation Services all about?
It is a travel agency where people who wish to travel outside the country are assisted in obtaining their air tickets, making hotel reservations and ensuring their safe departure and arrival at their destinations.
What inspired your establishment of the agency?
I was inspired by calls from foreign airline operators in the country in those days for competent hands that would work with them as agents. The passion I have for organising tours is also a factor.
Which airlines does your agency represent?
We represent all international airlines in Nigeria.
What stands your agency out from the horde of travel agencies in Nigeria?
Our unique relationship with our customers differentiates us from other agencies. Again, we deliver even at a very short notice. We don’t disappoint.
How has your journey into the aviation industry been?
It has been a wonderful time. When I look back, I thank God for the successes we have recorded so far irrespective of the harsh economic situation across the globe.
What training did you receive before qualifying as a travellers’ agent?
I am a trained and certified ticketing and reservation officer that worked for about four travel agencies. I received a lot of training from the four airlines and the International Air Transport Association. Airlines train us regularly on how to handle their products, especially the new ones. For instance, Virgin Atlantic trained us intensively when it introduced what it tagged Upper Class Chauffeur Drive, which entitles upper class passengers to free ride from the airport on arrival to the hotel and back to the airport on the day of departure.
What is your duty as the CEO?
I have over 95 per cent of our contacts. It takes a responsible and reliable personality to run an agency of this nature. Most of my clients are top government officials and captains of industry. I convince them about new products. So, I handle most client-related issues. I also supervise our employees to ensure that their activities conform to our policy of treating every client equally.
How do you see the level of patronage?
The level of patronage is okay. Over 90 per cent of the clients we have in our profile are still with us, even with the availability of computers in almost every home, which enable travellers to make their reservations directly.
These days, the aviation industry is driven by high technology. What are you doing to ensure that your agency is not left behind?
Airlines update us regularly about their products and train us too. We also acquire new technological devices for our services. So, we are on top of the game.
You must have encountered challenges in your line of business. How have you been handling them?
Our major challenge in this sector is finance.
So, we need government’s assistance. Again, inconsistencies in government policies have made us sceptical. For instance, some international airlines refused to pay travel agencies the nine per cent commission on every sale as stipulated by IATA, and the government is not calling them to order. This has made us introduce service charge, which we are glad that our customers understand.
The Coronavirus Disease, which broke out at the twilight of 2019, is affecting every human endeavour. How do you handle the pandemic’s effect on your business?
COVID-19 is a global issue, which we are all struggling with and which has affected the aviation industry more than expected. It has caused a serious setback, which we do not know how to handle, but are looking at approaching the government for assistance.
Travel agencies also assist travellers in obtaining visas. To what extent is your agency involved in this?
It is wrong for any travel agency to be involved in obtaining visas for its clients. The only assistance an agency can render in this regard is to help a customer complete the online form, if such a customer does not know how to do it. Involvement in visa processing has lured many agencies into fraudulent practices. We don’t get involved in visa processing because we are not trained in that.
What government’s policies affect travel agencies the most?
They are not implementing their policies. For instance, the government stipulated that international airlines should pay their agencies nine per cent of total sales made by each agency as commission, but they are not doing that and government is not compelling them to abide by the rule. This is affecting us.
If you become the Minister of Aviation today, what changes would you like to bring into the industry?
I will work with my team to ensure a reduction in air fare. Yes, many people blame the high fare on the exchange rate, but that is not totally true. I will also encourage the establishment of more local and international airlines in the country. Again, I will liaise with the minister of culture and tourism to create more tourist centres and ensure that proper attention is paid to existing ones.
Customers sometimes complain of variations in air fares. What is responsible for that?
Variations in air fares are usually caused by what we call availability. We have two seasons in the industry: low season and high season. Tickets are usually very expensive in the high season, particularly if the passenger did not make their reservation at least four months ahead. So, the earlier a reservation is made, the greater the chances of getting a ticket at a cheaper rate and vice versa, particularly during high season. Promo, which means selling of tickets at a cheap rate, normally takes place during the low season.
It is common knowledge that tickets are not transferable. How about bookings?
Tickets and bookings are not transferable. However, booking may be indirectly transferred based on availability. For instance, if a customer, who initially made a reservation, calls that he will no longer make the trip but would like someone else to take his or her seat, the booking already made will be cancelled and a fresh one made for the new person, if the seat is still available.
What other information would you like to share?
I will just say that this is a good business. It is a reliable source of income, which requires diligence and honesty. Whoever wants to go into it must make honesty their watchword.