By Chinedu Eze
About 48 hours after Emirates Airlines announced that it would resume flight operations to Nigeria on June 23, 2021, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday insisted that flights to Nigeria should be suspended.
In response to UAE’s new directive on COVID-19 protocol, Emirates Airlines stated in a message to travel partners that passenger flights to and from Nigeria (Lagos and Abuja) were suspended with effect from June 21 until further notice.
It directed that customers travelling to and from Lagos and Abuja would not be accepted for travel, and those who have been to – or connected through – Nigeria in the last 14 days are not permitted to board from any other point to the UAE.
Emirates on its website stated, “In line with government’s (UAE) directives, passenger flights to and from Nigeria (Lagos and Abuja) have been suspended with effect from 21st June 20121 until further notice
“We regret the inconvenience caused, and affected customers should contact their booking agent or Emirates call centre for rebooking, Emirates remains committed to Nigeria, and we look forward to resuming passenger services when conditions allow”, the airline said.
Emirates’ also said that flights from South Africa would remain suspended until July 6, in line with government directives that restrict the entry of travellers originating from South Africa, into the UAE.
The airline said that daily passenger flights to Johannesburg would operate as EK763, but outbound passenger services on EK 764 remain suspended.
It added that customers who have been to or connected through South Africa in the last 14 days would not be permitted on any Emirates flights bound for Dubai.
It also advised Nigerian passengers to either keep their tickets for future flights or rebook flight to another date.
Statement from Dubai Media Office, which was later confirmed by Emirates Airlines’ statement, indicated that UAE on Saturday conceded that Nigerian passenger that wished to travel to Dubai “must have received a negative test result for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test taken within 48 hours before departure, thus jettisoning the Rapid Antigen Test, which the federal government resisted and banned the Middle East carrier in February, insisting that government would allow the test when it was able to provide the infrastructure.
Reacting to UAE government’s oscillation, the former President of the of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) and Group Managing Director of Finchglow Travels, Bankole Bernard, told THISDAY that airlines want to start flying, taking passengers from place to place to regain their financial momentum but government of states were still weary about Coronavirus infections and they wwre still holding back to make sure their citizens were not infected.
“So the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is coordinating travels globally but governments are looking at the safety of their citizens. UAE brought out a blueprint to guide Emirates in the way it wants to protect its people,” Bernard said.
However, industry observers are of the view that the Nigerian government’s seeming indifference and insistence to stand its ground on the ban of the airline might have miffed UAE and it decided to rescind the relaxation of COVID-19 protocols on Nigeria.
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