Emirates Awaits FG’s Flight Directive, Carriers Mum On Resumption

Thousands of Nigerians who have been unable to travel to Dubai and other cities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) heaved a sigh of relief as the UAE lifted travel restrictions on 12 African nations including Nigeria.

The travel ban which ceases on January 29th, 2022 at 2.30 pm would allow the resumption of all inbound flights for national and international carriers from 12 African countries including Nigeria.

It is however not clear when Emirates would resume flights to Nigeria as both nations are yet to back down on their stance and communicate to each other when flight services can resume between the two nations since the nations have been embroiled in bitter aero political differences since February 2021.

While Kenya Airways had immediately after the ban was lifted announced flight resumption to Dubai beginning from January 31, 2022, Air Peace and Emirates are undecided when flights would resume; an indication that there are still issues yet to be finalized by the two nations, coupled with an ego that has led to a diplomatic feud between Nigeria and UAE.

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Emirates aircraft

A source from Emirates, who pleaded anonymity, said the two nations would need to formally write to each other to end the face-off which would lead to flight resumption, adding that it is only then that: “We can say that the matter has been amicably resolved”.

The travel ban was initially imposed as part of measures to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. The UAE had imposed the ban on Nigeria and others in the wake of the outbreak of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

The 12 countries from where transit passengers too will be allowed into the UAE include Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.

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On Thursday, the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA) added that starting 2.30 pm on Saturday, January 29, it had also updated the entry measures for travellers coming in from three other African countries: Uganda, Ghana, and Rwanda. Meanwhile, it may not be all clear for Nigerian flag carrier airline, Air Peace to begin services to Dubai.

Nigeria, through the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Capt. Musa Nuhu had cancelled Emirates Airline’s winter 21 frequencies to Abuja and Lagos when the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) of UAE stopped Air Peace’s seven frequencies to Dubai, saying that it could not guarantee the carrier slots in Dubai Airport.

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The carrier had resumed operations to Lagos and Abuja on December 4, 2021, after the initial faceoff over modalities for the COVID-19 test which the Nigerian government faulted. The reduction of the airline’s 21 frequencies to one forced the airline to again withdraw its services to Nigeria.

Air Peace

The implication of the travel rule was that Nigerians could not use the other available Abu Dhabi-based airline, Etihad which saw an unprecedented rise in passenger traffic as an alternative to Emirates Airlines that has stopped flight services to Nigeria because of Nigeria- UAE spat that had spanned 10 months.

Wole Shadare