Travel Row between Nigeria and UAE Intensifies

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The slot allocation row between UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and Nigeria’s Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) continues to deepen following the Nigerian civil aviation decision to reduce the number of Emirates weekly flights to just one.

Today, UAE has reportedly barred all passengers coming from Nigeria from travelling to Dubai after Nigerian passengers who boarded Ethiopian Airlines heading for Dubai were sent off the plane, according to Daily Trust.

The past few days have been subject of intensifying drama which has led to UAE’s largest airline, Emirates suspending regular scheduled flights to and from Nigeria, just a week after announcing its resumption.

But the situation has worsened after Dubai-bound passengers using other airlines were also reportedly barred from entering the UAE.

Flights Suspension to Nigeria

Emirates Airline in a travel notice on its website last Friday announced the suspension of flight operations between Nigeria and Dubai following the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority’s (NCAA) decision to reduce the number of weekly flights the airline can operate to just one.

The Gulf carrier only resumed daily nonstop passenger flights from Dubai (DXB) to Abuja (ABV) and Lagos (LOS) on Dec. 5 after Nigeria’s government lifted a ban placed on the airline over COVID-19 protocols.

However, permission for daily service was withdrawn by NCAA and the carrier was limited to operating one passenger flight to Abuja per week. 

In a statement, the Dubai-based airline said service would remain on hold until authorities in the United Arab Emirates and Nigeria “work on a solution to the ongoing issue.”

Emirates is committed to its operations in Nigeria, and we stand ready to reinstate services once restrictions are lifted by the Nigerian authorities,” the carrier added.

Slot Allocation row

This comes amid a dispute with the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) which argues that Nigeria’s ministry of aviation to limit Emirates flights to once per week was unjustifiable.

In a letter dated December 10, 2021, and signed by the Minister of Economy who also doubles as the Chairman of GCAA Board, Abdullah Bin Touq Al Marri, the GCAA requested that the federal government restore Emirates’ Winter Schedule.

The letter expressed sadness that the federal government withdrew the Winter Schedule because UAE refused to allow Air Peace’s request for three flights a week slot at Sharjah Airport.
The GCAA also accused Nigeria’s Air Peace of abandoning Sharjah Airport noting that the Airport was currently operating at 140 per cent slot capacity.

Air Peace initially operated at Sharjah Airport, shifted to Dubai Airport and then returned to Sharjah Airport. It would be unreasonable for an airline to expect any airport to maintain their slots when they ceased operating at that airport.

In this regard, we wish to kindly advise you that Sharjah Airport is currently operating at 140% slot capacity, but with goodwill and the tremendous effort on their side, this airport was able to accommodate Air Peace with one of the three slots that this airline requested.”

Air Peace on the other hand through NCAA Director General Musa Nuhu said, Air Peace only requested for three weekly flights to Sharjah, not even Dubai, but the GCAA refused the airline. The only excuse they gave was that they don’t have enough slots. Where is the justice in this?”

Air Peace Airlines is the only Nigerian airline that operates passenger flights to Sharjah International Airport in UAE. The airline requested three (3) weekly passenger flight frequencies and was granted only one (1) weekly passenger flight frequency.

Other airlines barred from transporting Nigerian passengers to Dubai include; EgyptAir, Air France, KLM, Ethiopian Airlines, RwandAir and Etihad.

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