The Dubai-based airline Emirates says it will be forced to slash the number of flights it operates to Nigeria because it has US $85 million in revenues stuck in the West African country that government officials are refusing to allow to be repatriated back to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Over the last few months, Nigeria has withheld more than $850 million in revenues from international airlines because of a severe U.S. Dollar shortage. Nigeria wants to hold onto as much money as possible and is refusing to release cash despite the “considerable efforts” of the likes of Emirates.
“It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform you of planned reductions in Emirates’ operation to Nigeria,” wrote Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, the airline’s senior vice president of international affairs in a letter to Nigeria’s minister of aviation last week.
“With effect from 15 August 2022, Emirates will be forced to reduce flights from Dubai to Lagos from 11 per week to 7 per week,” the letter continued. “We have had no choice but to take this action to mitigate the continued losses Emirates is experiencing as a result of funds being blocked in Nigeria.”
Sheikh Al Mualla claims $85 million in revenues has already been withheld by the Nigerian government and that figure is growing by $10 million every month.
“These finds are urgently needed to meet our operational costs and maintain the commercial viability of our services to Nigeria,” warned Al Mualla. “We simply cannot continue to operate at the current level in the face of mounting losses, especially in the challenging post-COVID-19 climate”.
The airline is reportedly having to fly hard cash in Nigeria in order to pay for services in the country and keep its operations running. Al Mualla says they offered to pay for fuel in Nigeria’s local Naria currency but this suggestion was rebuffed by the supplier who wanted U.S. Dollars.
So far, attempts by Emirates and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to find a solution have failed and Al Mualla claims the “situation continues to deteriorate”.
This isn’t the first time that Nigeria has withheld revenues from international airlines and several other African nations including Algeria, Etiopia and Zimbabwe are also refusing to repatriate dollars out of their respective countries.
Despite the importance of the Nigerian market for its operations, Emirates has had a fairly difficult relationship with the country over the last few years. During the pandemic, Emirates was banned from flying to Nigeria for several months because of additional Covid testing rules it required of Nigerian passengers.
Late last year, Emirates also suspended flights to Nigeria for a brief period over a tit-for-tat slot dispute.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.