Nigeria, UAE’s Spat Dips EgyptAir’s Passenger Traffic

Passenger traffic to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) through Cairo, Egypt, has considerably dwindled following cessation of flight operations between Nigeria and UAE occasioned by diplomatic face-off over rapid COVID-19 tests for intending travelers to the Arabian country.

Because of the ban, the number of passengers to Dubai through Cairo is no longer existent as many Nigerians travelling to UAE prefer to go through Cairo owing to cheaper fares that Egypt Air provides on the lucrative route.

EgyptAir General Manager for Lagos, Mr. Muharram Rahman, confirmed the development at a media briefing recently. The United Arab Emirates had extended the suspension of flights from Nigeria (Lagos and Abuja) from February 28 to March 10.

He noted that before the ban, the airline recorded 150 passengers on the wide-body aircraft and an average of 80 passengers on the narrow-body aircraft.

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He said: “We were affected by UAE situation because on an average, we have 150 passengers daily to Dubai on our wide-body aircraft, while we average around 70-80 passengers daily to Dubai on the narrow aircraft. We were affected but we looked for alternative markets to substitute for Dubai, which is Muscat.

“A lot of Nigerians are travelling to Muscat, we have about 40-50 passengers travelling to Muscat daily.

When we felt that we would lose Dubai markets, we leveraged our connections to Muscat. We just make our flights to arrive Cairo 45 minutes earlier so we can connect to Muscat.”

The airline GM announced plans to increase the number of flights from Lagos to 10, while also introducing daily flights from Abuja on June 1, 2021. He explained that the airline was looking to connect more passengers to Europe this year.

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He said: “We plan that on June 1st, we will operate ten flights per week from Lagos. From next month, we will increase our five weekly flights in Abuja to six and from the 1st of June it will be daily.”

The general manager, who maintained that the airline did not reduce its flight frequency, revealed that the load factor after the pandemic that ravaged the aviation industry had dropped from 95 per cent to an average of 70 per cent.

He said: “The load factor is not how it used to be. Before COVID-19, the load factor was 95 per cent, but the load factor now averages for 55 per cent to 70 per cent. This is the average we are carrying now “We did not decrease our daily flights during the pandemic.

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“This does not mean we were not affected. But we have an advantage, which is our location. It is easy for us to make Cairo airport a hub; we are connecting people from all over the world. We are close to everybody and everywhere.

” He added: “Before the virus, we were operating four wide-body aircraft from Lagos but now I cannot operate that aircraft except once in a week.”

To avoid fake declaration of COVID-19 test, the EgpptAir boss said the airline usually recommends three or four laboratories which would give the travellers authentic good result.

Wole Shadare