Emirates Airline says it will completely suspend its operations in Nigeria because the local government is refusing to let the Dubai-based carrier remove revenues earned in the country due to a severe U.S. Dollar shortage.
The airline says it has more than $85 million in cash stuck in Nigeria and without being able to repatriate it to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) it is effectively racking up massive losses by still flying to Nigeria.
Last month, Emirates’ senior vice president for international affairs Sheikh Majid Al Mualla told the Nigerian government that the airline would be forced to slash operations in the country due to its refusal to release the funds.
Sheikh Mualla said the airline’s losses were increasing by around $10 million a month and that the situation threatened the “commercial viability” of Nigeria in Emirates’ route network.
In recent months, the Nigerian government has withheld nearly $1 billion in airline revenue but attempts by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to get the trapped money released have proven to be fruitless.
“Emirates has tried every avenue to address our ongoing challenges in repatriating funds from Nigeria, and have made considerable efforts to initiate dialogue with the relevant authorities for their urgent intervention to help find a viable solution,” the airline said in a statement on Thursday.
“Regrettably there has been no progress. Therefore, Emirates has taken the difficult decision to suspend all flights to and from Nigeria, effective 01 September 2022, to limit further losses and impact on our operational costs that continue to accumulate in the market,” the statement continued.
Emirates operates up to 16 flights per week to Nigeria’s capital Abuja and largest city Lagos. The airline offers more than 5,600 seats to and from Nigeria per week.
“Should there be any positive developments in the coming days regarding Emirates’ blocked finds in Nigeria, we will of course, re‑evaluate our decision,” a spokesperson for the airline noted.
Despite the importance of the Nigerian market, Emirates has had a fairly difficult relationship with the country over the last few years and has suspended operations to the country on several occasions.
During the pandemic, Nigeria banned Emirates for several months because the airline wanted to impose an additional layer of COVID-19 testing at the country’s airports. The airline was also forced to suspend operations for a short period in a tit-for-tat slot dispute which was eventually resolved.
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.