Emirates suspends flights to Nigeria, unable to repatriate its income – IATA expresses its dismay to Nigeria

Emirates intends to cease its links with Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria, from 1 September. More than 85 million dollars earned in the country have indeed been blocked there for several months.

The move comes only three months after the UAE flag carrier promised to increase the number of its Nigerian flights from 12 to 22 per week.

Emirates has taken the difficult decision to suspend all flights to and from Nigeria, effective 1 September 2022, to limit losses and the impact on its operational costs, which continue to accumulate. We sincerely regret the inconvenience caused to our customers, however, the circumstances are beyond our control at this time,” the company said in a statement.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) revealed in June that foreign airlines had been unable to repatriate around USD 450 million from Nigeria. A figure that has since risen to USD 500 million, according to local media, against a backdrop of growing currency shortages.

This shortage is linked to the decrease in the country’s oil revenues. More than 80% of its foreign currency comes from black gold, but the sector’s revenues have plummeted due to crude oil thefts and the opaque payment of the gasoline subsidy.

As plane tickets are sold in naira, foreign airlines generally convert these into dollars and then repatriate them to their country of origin. However, the scarcity of foreign currency made this operation practically impossible.

In a statement issued by its Regional Vice-President for Africa and the Middle East Kamil Alawahdi, IATA took a swipe at the Federal Government of Nigeria for continually denying the airlines the right to repatriate the funds back to their home countries.

IATA is disappointed that the amount of airline money blocked from repatriation by the Nigerian government grew to $464 million in July.

“This is airline money and its repatriation is protected by international agreements in which Nigeria participates. IATA’s many warnings that failure to restore timely repatriation will hurt Nigeria with reduced air connectivity are proving true with the withdrawal of Emirates from the market.

“Airlines cannot be expected to fly if they cannot realize the revenue from ticket sales. Loss of air connectivity harms the local economy, hurts investor confidence, and impacts jobs and people’s livelihoods. It’s time for the Government of Nigeria to prioritize the release of airline funds before more damage is done.”

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