EMIRATES airline, flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has announced that flights to and from Nigeria will remain suspended until August 20.
According to the travel update on Emirates’ website, customers who have been to or connected through Nigeria in the last 14 days will not be permitted on any Emirates flights bound for Dubai.
“Affected flight bookings have been cancelled. Our Contact Centres are experiencing a greater volume of calls than anticipated. If your call is not related to travel within the next 48 hours, please consider calling back later,” the airline stated.
Emirates’ position countermands an earlier statement released by the National Emergency and Crisis Management Authority (NCEMA) on August 3 announcing the resumption of flights between Nigeria, Uganda, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India.
The NCEMA said passengers travelling from countries where flights had been banned, including Nigeria, would be able to transit through its airports from August 5, provided that they presented negative PCR coronavirus tests taken 72 hours prior to departure.
However, without providing any explanation, Emirates airline had insisted that flights to and from Nigeria would remain suspended until August 15, now moved to August 20.
This is not the first time flight resumption between the UAE and Nigeria has been stalled. In June, the airline maintained that flights with Nigeria would remain suspended indefinitely, even after the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management in Dubai had announced that travel protocol for inbound passengers from Nigeria would become effective from June 23.
Flights between both countries have been suspended since March 17 over disagreement relating to COVID-19 testing.
Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika has accused the UAE of introducing a COVID-19 protocol that was not backed by science and tended to target only Nigerians, but the Asian country said its COVID-19 safety protocol was not targeted at Nigerians but was designed to protect the health and well-being of citizens, residents, and visitors.
“Over the course of the past 12 months, the UAE has introduced a variety of special measures to govern travel between the UAE and a number of countries. These measures have sometimes been tailored to the particular characteristics of certain areas.
“These decisions have been taken after reviewing the prevalence of concerning variants, the number of passengers arriving from each country who subsequently test positive for COVID-19, and the integrity of domestic testing facilities. At no point has the UAE ever given certain airlines exemptions from these measures,” UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority stated.
In addition to the suspension of flights to and from Nigeria, the UAE has also barred Nigerians from applying for work permits and placed visa restrictions on them.
Director of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation in the UAE (NIDO-UAE) Fernando Judel told The ICIR that this restriction was only applicable to Nigerians.
“If you want to apply (for work permits or visas), you would see a display in the dialogue box that it is restricted to this nationality being Nigeria. So the person cannot even apply at all,” Judel confirmed to this newspaper.
A source at Emirates, who is not authorised to speak, told this newspaper that the delay in flight resumption between Nigeria and the UAE was purely a government decision and had nothing to do with the airline.
“It has nothing to do with us. We have to oblige to what they say,” the source said.