The United Arab Emirates’ mega carrier, Emirates Airlines has suspended flight operations indefinitely to Nigeria over its trapped funds. The airline had earlier announced that it would suspend its operations from October 29, 2022, over the failure of the government to make dollars available to the foreign carriers to repatriate their revenue during a meeting held at the National Assembly recently between the legislators, the Minister of Aviation and aviation stakeholders, including airlines and travel agents.
Emirates operated twice daily to Lagos and once daily to Abuja, recording 21 flights every week with high load factor. But an attempt to book flight from its portal between Dubai and Abuja or Lagos failed because the airline did not indicate that it still operates to those destinations and had kept mum after that initial announcement during aviation stakeholders meeting in Abuja.
However, in a statement by Emirates yesterday, the airline said it had no option but to suspend flights to/from Nigeria from 29 October 2022, to mitigate against further losses moving forward.
According to the airline, “Emirates has continued to actively seek a solution for the repatriation of the remainder of its blocked funds in Nigeria. We were encouraged by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s efforts of reviewing our request and considered that this critical issue would be swiftly resolved with the subsequent clearance of our remaining funds.
“However, Emirates has yet to receive an allocation of our blocked funds to be repatriated. Without the timely repatriation of the funds and a mechanism in place to ensure that future repatriation of Emirates’ funds do not accumulate in any way, the backlog will continue to grow, and we simply cannot meet our operational costs nor maintain the commercial viability of our operations in Nigeria.”
The airline explained that it had officially communicated its position and attended multiple hearings with the Nigerian government, and had made its proposed approach clear to, “alleviate this untenable situation, including a plan for the progressive release of our funds.”
This it stated included the repatriation and receipt of at least 80 per cent of its remaining blocked funds by the end of October 2022, in addition to providing a guaranteed mechanism to avoid future repatriation accumulation challenges and delays.
“We hope to reach a mutual resolution with the Nigerian government around the repatriation of blocked funds to enable the resumption of operations and connectivity for travellers and businesses,” the airline said.
A fortnight ago, UAE stopped issuing visa to Nigeria and 19 other African countries.The stoppage of visa issuance to Nigerians was announced by licenced travel agents in Dubai who told their Nigerian counterparts in mid-October that the UAE would no more issue visa to Nigerians.Recently it was announced that foreign airlines trapped funds in Nigeria had risen to $700 million.