Forty-eight hours after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) lifted travel suspension on Nigeria, India, South Africa, the country made a U-turn by suspending flights to and from the West African cities of Lagos and Abuja with effect from June 21 until further notice. The re-imposition of the travel ban elicited shock among teeming Nigerian travelers who got excited about the lifting of the ban imposed by UAE since February this year following a spat between UAE and Nigeria over modalities for conducting tests on travelers to and from Dubai to Nigeria.
The UAE did not explain what influenced its decision to make the U-turn after it lifted the ban that would have reinstated air travel between the two nations. The airline in a statement said customers traveling to and from Lagos and Abuja will not be accepted for travel, and those who have been to – or connected through – Nigeria in the last 14 days will not be permitted to board from any other point to the UAE.
“We regret the inconvenience caused, and affected customers should contact their booking agent or Emirates call center for re-booking,” said the airline. “Emirates remains committed to Nigeria, and we look forward to resuming passenger services when conditions allow.” The airline had on Saturday announced that it would be resuming flight operations in Nigeria from June 23, 2021.
Emirates’ also said that flights from South Africa will remain suspended until July 6, in line with government directives that restrict the entry of travelers originating from South Africa, into the UAE. “Daily passenger flights to Johannesburg will operate as EK763, but outbound passenger services on EK 764 remain suspended. Customers who have been to or connected through South Africa in the last 14 days will not be permitted on any Emirates flights bound for Dubai“, according to the carrier.
The UAE had refused to fly passengers without a pre-boarding rapid diagnostic test (RTD’s) but on Saturday announced a new travel protocol now accepting to carry Nigerian passengers who present negative PCR test results taken within 48 hours before departure.
It had announced a travel protocol stating that as part of easing inbound travel restrictions, Dubai’s Supreme Court Committee of crisis and disaster management had introduced new entry protocols for passengers effective from 23 June 2021.
Aside from British Airways, Emirates is the second-highest earner among airlines operating in Nigeria. The carrier which recently had a $5.5 billion loss in 33 years operates two daily flights to Lagos and a daily flight to Abuja, the country’s capital. The suspension of the carrier’s operations has added enormously to the loss as Dubai is the second most visited destination after the United Kingdom.
On February 1, Emirates Airline had directed that Nigerian travelers at the Lagos and Abuja airports must conduct rapid COVID-19 tests before departure. This led to a ban on Emirates flights in Nigeria. The ban was lifted after the airline agreed to stop the rapid antigen tests.
But the federal government reintroduced the ban on March 15, saying the airline rescinded the agreement. On March 25, 2021, the UAE embassy in Abuja announced new COVID-19 travel protocols for Nigeria as measures to curtail the spread of coronavirus in the country, passengers who have been in or transited through South Africa or Nigeria in the last 14 days before traveling to Dubai were barred from entering Dubai.
While Emirates was trying to force the hands of the Nigerian government to accept its rapid test policy, the Nigerian government said it would abide by the agreement extracted from them to suspend the exercise such a time that the required infrastructure is made available by the Nigerian government.