EMIRATES Airlines has suspended all flights from Nigeria effective September 1, 2022, due to what it called the challenges in repatriating its funds.
In a statement it forwarded to The ICIR on Thursday, August 18, 2022, the airline said no progress had been made in getting its funds out of Nigeria, hence the decision.
The statement read, “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 1 September 2022, to limit further losses and impact on our operational costs that continue to accumulate in the market.”
The foreign airline apologised to its customers, noting that the situation was beyond its control and promised to help affected customers make alternative travel arrangements wherever possible.
Just one month ago, on July 30, 2022, the foreign carrier had reduced the number of its weekly flights from Dubai to Lagos from 11 to seven due to the same issue.
In a letter addressed to the Nigerian Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, Emirates stated it had been attempting to repatriate the sum of $85 million it alleged was stuck in Nigeria.
“As of July 2022, Emirates has $85m of funds awaiting repatriation from Nigeria. This figure has been rising by more than $10 million every month as the ongoing operational costs of our 11 weekly flights to Lagos and 5 to Abuja continue to accumulate,” the letter read in part.
It said the blocked funds were beginning to affect the carrier’s operating costs, as well as its commercial viability, adding it could not continue to accumulate losses in the face of the challenging coronavirus pandemic.
Similarly, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) accused the Nigerian government of preventing foreign airlines from repatriating the sum of $450 million (about N188.6 billion) they had earned from ticket sales to their respective countries.
The president of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Susan Akporiaye, in an interview with the ICIR, described the issue of blocked funds as money owed to airlines on credit.
She explained that when this default in payment occured, the seller would refuse to sell tickets, or be forced to double the service charge.
The NANTA chief believed that foreign airlines would make efforts to continue in business in Nigeria before withdrawal of flight services.
She said, “The last resort is to stop sales. But before they get to that level, they would try different things. They would increase fares and reduce frequencies. The reduction of frequencies has been on for over a month now. Emirates had reduced their frequencies in Abuja over two months. They are just announcing the one for Lagos now. However, when they reduced for Abuja they didn’t announce it. This is their own way of reducing the amount of money stuck in the system. If they continue to fly every day, the money stuck in the system would increase.”
Emirates has, however, promised to rescind its decision should there be any improvement.
“Should there be any positive developments in the coming days regarding Emirates’ blocked funds in Nigeria, we will of course re-evaluate our decision,” the statement added.
The airline said it was keen on serving Nigeria and providing the needed connectivity to trade and tourism opportunities in Dubai.