Dubai-based Emirates Airlines has suspended all flights to and from Nigeria. This comes a few months after the West African nation froze at least $85 million that belongs to the airline.
The long-haul gulf-based carrier said the total suspension will take effect on September 1st, 2022 mainly because the airline has been unable to recover funds stuck in Nigeria and which increases by $10 million every 30 calendar days.
Due to its huge population and above average purchasing power, Nigeria is one of the biggest aviation market in Africa. But the country nicknamed Nairaland, has restricted access to foreign currency for imports and for investors seeking to repatriate their profits due to a shortage of dollars. Nigeria gets about 90 percent of its foreign exchange from oil but is struggling to produce due to pipeline theft and years of under-investment.
Emirates Airlines has frantically tried to involve higher-level authorities in Nigeria with hopes of making a breakthrough leading to the release of the funds but in vain. On Thursday August 18, Emirates released the following statement:
“Therefore, Emirates has taken the difficult decision to suspend all flights to and from Nigeria, effective 1 September 2022, to limit further losses and impact on our operational costs that continue to accumulate in the market,” the airline said in a statement.
In a frantic and frustrating letter sent to the Nigerian government, Emirates Airlines said the following:
“We simply cannot continue to operate at the current level in the face of mounting losses, especially in the challenging post-COVID-19 climate”.
“Emirates did try to stem up the losses by proposing to pay for fuel in Nigeria in naira currency which would have at least reduced one element of our ongoing costs, but however, this request was denied by the supplier”.
It is worth noting that Nigeria does not block funds belonging to only Emirates airlines. If fact, there are other large carriers that fly to the West African nation whose money have been blocked as well.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said in back in June this year that Nigeria was withholding $450m in revenue that international carriers operating in the country had earned.
Currently, the airline flies to Dubai (DXB) to Lagos (LOS) twice daily. The carrier uses a Boeing 777-300ER to service this route. Emirates has comfortable inflight offerings on Lagos flights, which include luxurious private suites in First Class, deeply reclining comfort in Business Class and room to relax in Economy Class.
The carrier uses Flight EK 781 and 783 for flights from DXB to LOS (flight time of 7 hours 40 minutes) and flight number EK782 and EK784 for returning from LOS to DXB (flight time is 7 hours 45 minutes).