THE flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Emirates Airlines, says it will reduce its flight operations to Nigeria over the inability to repatriate about $85 million in revenue.
Last month, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said Nigeria was withholding revenue worth about $450 million earned by foreign airlines operating in the country.
The airline said this in a letter addressed to Hadi Sirika, minister of aviation, dated July 22, 2020, and signed by Sheik Majid Al Mualla, Emirates airline’s divisional senior vice-president (DSVP), international affairs.
Emirates said the planned reductions in its operations in Nigeria would take effect from August 15, 2022.
It added that flights would be reduced from 11 per week to 7 per week at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA).
“We have had no choice but to take this action, to mitigate the continued losses Emirates is experiencing as a result of funds being blocked in Nigeria,” it said.
“As of July 2022, Emirates has US$ 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.”
It said the funds are urgently needed to meet its operational costs and maintain the commercial viability of its services to Nigeria.
“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,” the statement reads.
“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.
“Your Excellency, this is not a decision we have taken lightly. Indeed, we have made every effort to work with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to find a solution to this issue. Our Senior Vice-President met with the Deputy Governor of the CBN in May and followed up on the meeting by letter to the Governor himself the following month, however no positive response was received.
“Meetings were also held with Emirates’ own bank in Nigeria and in collaboration with IATA to discuss improving FX allocation, but with limited success. Despite our considerable efforts, the situation continues to deteriorate. We are now in the unfortunate position of having to cut flights, to mitigate against further losses going forward.”
Emirates added the issue was primarily a financial constraint, urging the Nigerian government to support.
“We are confident that your valuable involvement would make a real difference in improving this very difficult situation. Should there be any positive development in the coming days, we will, of course, re-evaluate this decision,” it said.