Emirates reverses suspension of flight operations into Lagos

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Less than a week after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) released part of airlines’ trapped funds, the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based carrier, Emirates Airlines, has reversed its planned suspension of flight operations into the country.

Emirates had penultimate week announced suspension of its flights into Nigeria beginning from this Thursday, September 1, over failure to repatriate its funds trapped in the country amounting to over $80 million.

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The airline accused the Nigerian government of stalling efforts to repatriate its withheld foreign exchange, as it announced a shutdown of its existing 21-frequencies/7 days-weekly flight operations into Nigeria from both the Lagos and Abuja airports.

A statement confirming its decision to shut down flight operations into Nigeria issued, penultimate Thursday, also explained that the latest decision was taken by the carrier to ‘limit further losses and impact on our operational costs that continue to accumulate in the market.’

However, it is not only the Emirates that is at the receiving end of the foreign exchange (forex) crunch in Nigeria, but as many as 20 foreign airlines operating into the country.

The airline had on Monday cut its 11 weekly frequencies into Lagos Airport to just seven.

The planned suspension will affect all flights by the airline into the country.

”Emirates has tried every avenue to address our ongoing challenges in repatriating funds from Nigeria, and we have made considerable efforts to initiate dialogue with the relevant authorities for their urgent intervention to help find a viable solution.

”Regrettably, there has been no progress. Therefore, Emirates has taken the difficult decision to suspend all flights to and from Nigeria, effective September 1 2022, to limit further losses and impact on our operational costs that continue to accumulate in the market.

”We sincerely regret the inconvenience caused to our customers, however the circumstances are beyond our control at this stage. We will be working to help impacted customers make alternative travel arrangements wherever possible.

”Should there be any positive developments in the coming days regarding Emirates’ blocked funds in Nigeria, we will of course re-evaluate our decision. We remain keen to serve Nigeria, and our operations provide much needed connectivity for Nigerian travellers, providing access to trade and tourism opportunities to Dubai and to our broader network of over 130 destinations,” read the statement by the airline.

However, in a major U-turn announced by Gulf nation carrier, Wednesday, Emirates said it will resume its flights into Lagos, setting aside its suspension of operations which was to commence, Thursday, September 1.

“We are pleased to inform you that effective from 11th September 2022, we will reinstate operations of our flights,” Emirates said on Wednesday.

“Inbound flights from Dubai to Lagos (EK783) and outbound flights from Lagos to Dubai (EK784) will recommence from Sunday, 11th September 2022.

“Lagos flights after 30th September 2022 will be advised in due course,” the airline said in a notice dispatched to customers, Wednesday.

The U-turn may not unconnected with last Friday’s move by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) release of the sum of $265 million to airlines operating in the country, to settle outstanding ticket sales.

A breakdown of the figure indicated that the sum of $230 million was released as special FX intervention while another sum of $35 million was released through Retail SMIS auction.

Confirming the release, the director, Corporate Communications Department at the CBN, Osita Nwanisobi, said the Governor, Godwin Emefiele and his team were concerned about the development and what it portends for the sector and travelers as well as the country in the comity of nations.

Nwanisobi reiterated that the CBN was not against any company repatriating its funds from the country, adding that what the regulatory bank stood for was an orderly exit for those that might be interested in doing so.

CBN’s gesture is expected to clear the way for foreign airlines, as well as, domestic  carriers operating international flights to return to scheduled operations, as some like the British Airways and Emirates, Air Peace had already shut or thinned down flights.

“As of July 2022, Emirates has US$85 million of funds awaiting repatriation from Nigeria. This figure has been rising by more than $US10 million every month, as the ongoing operational costs of our 11 weekly flights to Lagos and 5 to Abuja continue to accumulate,” Emirates had disclosed to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika in a letter conveying its decision to shut operations into Nigeria.

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