Nigeria has suffered a big public relations and investment setback as Emirates suspends its operations to Nigeria from September 1st. This was confirmed in a statement by Emirates, the world’s fastest growing airline.
The statement revealed: “Emirates has tried every avenue to address our ongoing challenges in repatriating funds from Nigeria, and we have made considerable efforts to initiate dialogue with the relevant authorities for their urgent intervention to help find a viable solution.
“Regrettably, there has been no progress. Therefore, Emirates has taken the difficult decision to suspend all flights to and from Nigeria, effective 1 September 2022, to limit further losses and impact on our operational costs that continue to accumulate in the market.
“We sincerely regret the inconvenience caused to our customers, however the circumstances are beyond our control at this stage. We will be working to help impacted customers make alternative travel arrangements wherever possible.
“Should there be any positive developments in the coming days regarding Emirates’ blocked funds in Nigeria, we will of course re-evaluate our decision. We remain keen to serve Nigeria, and our operations provide much-needed connectivity for Nigerian travellers, providing access to trade and tourism opportunities to Dubai, and to our broader network of over 130 destinations.”
Emirates trapped funds in Nigeria is almost $100 million
In an earlier letter addressed to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika by Emirates airline’s divisional senior vice-president (DSVP), international affairs, Sheik Majid Al Mualla confirmed that:
“As of July 2022, Emirates has US$ 85 million of funds awaiting repatriation from Nigeria. This figure has been rising by more than $US 10 million every month, as the ongoing operational costs of our 11 weekly flights to Lagos and 5 to Abuja continue to accumulate.
“We simply cannot continue to operate at the current level in the face of mounting losses, especially in the challenging post-COVID-19 climate.
“Emirates did try to stem the losses by proposing to pay for fuel in Nigeria in Nairas, which would have at least reduced one element of our ongoing costs, however, this request was denied by the supplier.
“This means that not only are Emirates’ revenues accumulating, we also have to send hard currency into Nigeria to sustain our own operation. Meanwhile, our revenues are out of reach, and not even earning credit interest.”
Nigeria vs Emirates: likely PR and aviation industry scenarios
These are the likely scenarios:
1. The Federal Government and Emirates will confidentially meet behind closed doors and try to broker a solution.
2. The Nigeria Government might offer to allow Emirates to repatriate some funds, as a quick fix and to get Emirates back. Whether the airline will accept such tokenism is another question.
3. A few other airlines will follow the Emirates’ action and suspend operations or reduce them drastically.
4. International flight fares would skyrocket.
5. Carriers such as Qatar Airways, Ethiopian and Air Peace flying the Dubai routes might urgently expand their capacity to cope with the extra traffic.
6. Travel agents will intensify their lobby efforts with the Federal Government, given the massive loss of income from the Emirates suspension.
7. Nigeria will go on a public relations offensive to search for a face-saving way out.