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Emirates Set to Resume Flights to Nigeria Nearly Two Years After Suspending Services Due to Millions of Dollars in Blocked Funds

Emirates Set to Resume Flights to Nigeria Nearly Two Years After Suspending Services Due to Millions of Dollars in Blocked Funds

airplanes on a runway

Emirates has announced plans to resume flights to Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, in October, nearly two years after suspending flights to the West African nation because it had millions of dollars in revenue trapped in the country.

The Dubai-based airline last operated a scheduled flight to Lagos on October 28, 2022, after warning that the route faced being suspended unless the Nigerian government freed up funds to be repatriated to the UAE.

At the height of the dispute, Emirates said that it had more than $85 million in cash trapped in Nigeria and that the airline’s losses were increasing by around $10 million per month.

As a result, the airline said it was effectively making a loss on operating flights to Nigeria and that it would be forced to suspend flights unless the situation changed.

Emirates did not directly reference the cash dispute in its announcement on Thursday that it planned to resume non-stop flights between Dubai and Lagos starting October 1, 2024.

The airline’s deputy president and chief commercial officer, Adnan Kazim, did, however, thanked the Nigerian government “for their partnership and support in re-establishing this route”.

The issue of trapped airline funds wasn’t just limited to Emirates and at one point in 2022, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimated that the Nigerian government was withholding more than $1 billion in airline revenues from international carriers.

There are a number of countries that have made it difficult for international airlines to repatriate revenues, with some of the worst offenders named as Nigeria, Pakistan and Egypt.

Before suspending flights, Nigeria’s central bank had promised to release some of the trapped funds, but Emirates claimed the cash never materialised, leading to the airline to suspend flights.

Since then, Nigeria has slowly been releasing trapped cash, although the country remains on IATA’s watchlist. Last month, IATA warned that Pakistan and Bangladesh were currently the worst offenders, with around $720 million in trapped airline revenues held in these two markets.

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