Emirates To Suspend Nigeria Flights Over Blocked Funds

Routes from Dubai to Abuja and Lagos will be halted from September.

Credit: Rob Finlayson

Emirates is to suspend flights to Nigeria from next month, citing an inability to repatriate funds from the West African country.

In a statement, the Gulf carrier said it has “tried every avenue” to address the ongoing challenges in repatriating funds and made “considerable efforts to initiate dialogue with the relevant authorities for their urgent intervention to help find a viable solution.”

However, the airline added that “there has been no progress” and so it has taken the decision to limit further losses by pulling out of the market.

Emirates currently serves two destinations in Nigeria, flying to the capital Abuja (ABV) five times per week and the county’s largest city Lagos (LOS) 11 times per week. OAG data shows that capacity between Dubai (DXB) and Nigeria currently totals 11,520 two-way weekly seats.

The airline said both routes would be suspended from Sept. 1 unless there was a breakthrough in repatriating blocked funds in the coming days.

“We remain keen to serve Nigeria, and our operations provide much needed connectivity for Nigerian travelers, providing access to trade and tourism opportunities to Dubai, and to our broader network of over 130 destinations,” Emirates said in a statement.

In June, IATA claimed that Nigeria is blocking around $450 million of airline funds from the sale of tickets, cargo space, and other activities. The trapped funds are proceeds of ticket sales made in local currency but blocked due to the nonavailability of foreign exchange to recoup it.

Speaking at the 78th IATA AGM in Doha, Qatar, IATA regional VP Kamil Al-Awadhi urged the Central Bank of Nigeria to work with the industry to resolve the issues that are preventing airlines from repatriating funds, otherwise fares to and from the country will continue to rise.

“It is not helping the average Nigerian to travel because the prices are ridiculous,” he said. “They’re almost two to three times more expensive than any other region.

“It will become too costly for people to travel in and out of Nigeria—and this is when everything will collapse. We want to make sure that the Nigerian authorities understand this before the collapse. Because it will collapse.”

Emirates’ exit from Nigeria will leave Qatar Airways as the sole ME3 carrier serving the country as Etihad has yet to return since suspending Abu Dhabi (AUH)-Lagos in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic. At the present time, Qatar Airways flies double-daily from Doha (DOH) to Lagos, and five times per week to Abuja.