Emirates Airline says it is keen to resume flight operations in and out of Nigeria, as recent discussions by the federal government and United Arab Emirates (UAE) have signalled a “positive way forward.”
Also, South African Airways says it is set to resume its Johannesburg-Lagos route after suspending flights to Nigeria for about 18 months.
Emirates stopped flights to Nigeria in February 2021, when its operation was put on hold by the federal government following its demand for COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test (RDT) for Nigerian travellers, four hours before their flight, as stipulated in the COVID-19 protocols of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Last Thursday, the airline updated its website informing passengers that flight operations remained suspended till November 30, 2021, in Nigeria – despite moves by the Nigerian government to end the 10-month row.
But yesterday, the airline issued a statement, saying “it is keen” to restart services to and from Nigeria, following positive reports on ongoing efforts to recognise and certify some laboratories in Abuja and Lagos, which could conduct COVID-19 tests for passengers travelling on Emirates.
The airline said: “The UAE government continues to advance its dialogue with the Nigerian authorities, and the latest discussions signal great optimism for a positive way forward.
“We regularly update our website to keep our customers informed, and although our operations are still on hold, Emirates is keen to restart services to and from Nigeria, and are working closely with designated laboratories in Nigeria to provide the required tests and hopes to be able to get all laboratories ready for implementation very soon.
“We are committed to Nigeria, and look forward to providing much needed connectivity for our customers, helping to meet growing air travel demand in and out of our two Nigerian gateways, and making air travel more accessible to and through Dubai to over 120 destinations across our global network.”
In February, Emirates directed Nigerian travellers at the Lagos and Abuja airports to conduct rapid COVID-19 tests before departure, which led to a ban on Emirates flights in Nigeria. The ban was later lifted after the airline agreed to stop the rapid antigen tests.
The federal government reintroduced the ban in March, explaining that Emirates had continued to conduct rapid antigen tests for passengers before departure from Nigeria. The NCAA had said the move by Emirates violated the country’s COVID-19 protocols – while Hadi Sirika, minister of aviation, described it as “discriminatory profiling” of Nigerian travellers.
Meanwhile, South African Airways has said “it plans to re-start” the service on December 12, 2021 and that it would begin with three weekly flights to Lagos.
In a statement, the South African carrier said it had been flying to Nigeria for the past 23 years.
The interim Chief Executive Officer, South African Airways, Thomas Kgolo, was quoted as saying, “This specific destination takes SAA into one of the biggest travel markets in Africa and we’re delighted that we are again able to resume operations, providing a link between Africa’s two biggest economies.”
According to Kgolo, the new Johannesburg – Lagos flights would function as a key economic link between the two countries and service the tourism market in both countries.