Emirates has suspended flights to Nigeria again because it can’t repatriate ticket revenues from the country.
In a statement, the airline said the suspension takes effect from October 29, 2022 and is designed to protect it from “further losses moving forward”. The Dubai-based carrier had previously warned that October 28 would be its last day of flight operations out of Nigeria.
The issue of ticket funds being stuck in Nigeria has been plaguing international carriers for several months now. Emirates had suspended flights in August but reinstated them in September after the Nigeria government agreed to release some funds.
However, fresh efforts to release some more funds don’t appear to have swayed the Gulf carrier to change its mind this time.
“Without the timely repatriation of the funds and a mechanism in place to ensure that future repatriation of Emirates’ funds do not accumulate in any way, the backlog will continue to grow, and we simply cannot meet our operational costs nor maintain the commercial viability of our operations in Nigeria,” an Emirates spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters on November 2, 2022.
At a meeting with aviation representatives on October 24, 2022, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had announced that an amount of $120 million would be released on October 31, 2022, while the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria said additional funds would be released in phases until the end of December.
A representative from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) had told the meeting that $700 million of ticket revenues owed to airlines was still trapped in the country.
After the meeting on October 24, 2022, the House of Representatives said it hoped that an understanding reached to release further funds in stages until the end of December 2022 would bring about a “ceasefire” in the row over flight suspensions.
Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, urged airlines to reconsider threats to suspend operations.
The IATA representative had promised to relay the comments to airlines but said that it wasn’t representing Emirates.
In its statement, Emirates said it had attended “multiple hearings” with the Nigerian government. “We have made our proposed approach clear to alleviate this untenable situation, including a plan for the progressive release of our funds,” the airline said.