Confusion as Emirates Airline retains ban on Nigerian travellers
While the UAE’s open-door policy already took effect yesterday, disavowal by the airline has thrown travel agencies into confusion.
The agencies said it was not the first time Emirates’ management had backtracked on resumption of scheduled flights, causing travel agencies to incur losses on cancelled bookings.
The National Emergency and Crisis Management Authority (NCEMA) in UAE recently lifted a ban on Nigerians, Indians and Pakistanis travelling to or through the country.
NCEMA said that passengers travelling from countries where flights had been banned would be able to transit through its airports from August 5 as long as they present a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken 72 hours prior to departure.
However, Emirates has said that flights to and from Nigeria will remain suspended until August 15. The carrier, in a travel update, stated that the injunction was in line with government’s directives that restrict the entry of travellers originating from Nigeria into the UAE.
“Customers, who have been to or connected through Nigeria in the last 14 days, will not be permitted on any Emirates flights bound for Dubai. Affected flight bookings have been cancelled,” the update read.
The airline also stressed that those whose flights had been cancelled or impacted by route suspensions due to COVID‑19 restrictions could hold on to the tickets until flights resume.
“Our contact centres are experiencing a greater volume of calls than anticipated. If your call is not related to travel within the next 48 hours, please consider calling back later,” travel update read in part.
Emirates left Nigeria in March over diplomatic spat on account of additional rapid antigen test imposed on Nigerian travellers as part of measures to check fake COVID-19 test results entering Dubai.
Last month, Emirates hinted on the plan to resume operation for summer travels. The decision was rescinded about 48 hours later.
President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Susan Akporiaye said the back and forth is bad for the travel business.
“We are waiting for further instructions because we are tired of all this. This has happened over and over again. For us in the travel community, until we get a communication from the airline, we will not take any action because this has happened more than once and our members went ahead to issue tickets and did so many things and before you know it, they brought up another one.
“So, we have decided, going forward, until we get a communication from the airline, we will not take any further action.”
The suspension of Emirates Airlines and Etihad’s withdrawal from Nigerian airspace did cost Nigeria at least a 20 per cent decline in international passenger traffic.
The Guardian had reported that the decline was a major setback for air travel’s gradual recovery that earlier climbed to 45 per cent of pre-COVID-19 traffic.
Chairman of the Airline Passenger Joint Committee (APJC), Bankole Bernard, said continued absence of UAE airlines was unfortunate, with a significant impact on passenger traffic.
Bernard, who is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Finchglow Travels, said the market’s erstwhile recovery of 45 per cent had as at March slumped to 15 per cent.
“Irrespective of what has happened, I believe the two governments need to have a roundtable and get it resolved rather than allow third parties to read meanings and take advantage of the vacuum. The relationship is mutually beneficial and this is the time to make it even stronger,” Bankole said.
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