Etihad, Emirates Resume Flights to Nigeria after Talks
Etihad and Emirates Airlines will resume flights to Nigeria after a one-year hiatus following talks between Abuja and UAE after the two carriers pulled out of the route as they could not repatriate their revenue from ticket sales.
Nigeria is the leading country globally with the highest amount of blocked funds and had by April this year accumulated $812 million of airline revenue, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and President of the United Arab Emirates, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan held talks in Abu Dhabi on Monday, which among other things, will see the Gulf nation resume visa issuance to Nigerians.
The two leaders finalised, what Nigeria’s presidency termed “a historic agreement”, which resulted in the immediate cessation of the visa ban placed on Nigerian travelers.
“Furthermore, by this historic agreement, both Etihad Airlines and Emirates Airlines are to immediately resume flight schedules into and out of Nigeria, without any further delay,” a statement by Nigeria’s presidential spokesman Ajuri Ngelale said.
The two carriers halted operation on the route due to a sharp rise in blocked funds that they were unable to repatriate, hence impacting their businesses.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the industry’s blocked funds have increased by 47 percent to $2.27 billion as of April 2023 from $1.55 billion in the corresponding period a year earlier.
IATA warned in June that rapidly rising levels of blocked funds are a threat to airline connectivity in the affected markets.
“Airlines cannot continue to offer services in markets where they are unable to repatriate the revenues arising from their commercial activities in those markets. Governments need to work with industry to resolve this situation so airlines can continue to provide the connectivity that is vital to driving economic activity and job creation,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
The top five countries that have failed to repatriate airline money account for 68 percent of blocked funds. These include Nigeria ($812.2 million), Bangladesh ($214.1 million), Algeria ($196.3 million) Pakistan ($188.2 million) Lebanon ($141.2 million).