Omicron: Nigerian Carriers Brace For Massive Flight Cancellations From UK

Many Nigerians living overseas could be denied the opportunity to visit home for Christmas following the United Kingdom’s travel ban on Nigeria because of the discovery of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the country.

Thousands of Nigerians in the Diaspora, particularly in the UK and the United States, are counting their losses as they have put on hold their trips as airlines are making frantic moves to cancel their bookings.

This will also have spiral effects on domestic carriers seeing an upward rise in the number of bookings done by Nigerians in the Diaspora. But since the announcement of the ban that took effect yesterday and effectively put Nigeria on the UK’s COVID-19 red list, the number of bookings has quickly decreased, an indication that not many people would travel home for the Yuletide.

From December 1 of every year to January, the South-East experience a traffic surge as many people visit the region and the South-South for Christmas and New Year celebrations.

A Nigerian family, who spoke to Aviation Metric from London yesterday, lamented that the travel ban is really hurting Nigerian residents in the UK and Nigeria-born British nationals.

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A travel agent, who spoke to our correspondent, said despite the ban, many Nigerians having the British passport or residence permit are still making travel plans to the country as the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic’s inbound flights are still having near full capacity while the British carriers’ outbound are suffering.

President, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Mrs. Susan Akporiaye, said the ban was having torrid effects on Nigerian-born British nationals.

She, however, stated that many were waiting for the review of the ban on December 20, adding that failure to review the ban by the British to remove Nigeria from its red list would lead to a bleak Christmas.

Akporiaye said she advised her clients not to cancel their bookings yet until December 20, where they could be massive booking cancellations if the ban is not rescinded.

Her words, “Where would they get £2000 for quarantine in government’s facilities when they get back to the UK after their trips in Nigeria? Except for the reason for their trip is very important and they have a lot of money to throw around, it makes no sense to embark on such trips home”.

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British Airways on Monday flew passengers in and out of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

The flight operated hours after the ban placed on Nigerians by the United Kingdom took effect.

The flight, which arrived at almost full capacity, left with fewer passengers.

It was learnt that the few passengers the airline airlifted to the United Kingdom were the United States of America- bound passengers who were transiting.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has asked the United Kingdom to review its decision to impose a travel ban on Nigerians because of the Omicron variant of COVID-19

.It said the UK’s decision was “unfair, unjust, punitive and discriminatory because it does not follow science.”

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed made the position of the government known at a briefing in Abuja.

He said: “As you are aware, Britain has put Nigeria on its red list and banned foreign travels from our country.

” This is as a result of the discovery of Covid-19 cases, Omicron variant, in Nigeria. Britain now joins other countries, including Canada, which have taken similar action against Nigeria over Omicron.

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” Let me say straight away that it’s up to the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) to respond to this action by the British government and others, and I have no doubt that the Committee will respond appropriately.

” However, as the Spokesman for the Federal Government, I can say, without mincing words, that the decision by the British government to put Nigeria on the red list, just because of less than two dozen cases of Omicron which, by the way, did not originate in Nigeria, is unjust, unfair, punitive, indefensible and discriminatory. The decision is also not driven by science.

“We sincerely hope the British government will immediately review the decision to put Nigeria on its red list and rescind it immediately. Nigeria has handled the Covid-19 pandemic with utmost responsibility and based on science, and has rightly earned global accolades for its efforts. Nigeria does not belong on any country’s red list.”

Wole Shadare