Emirates to restart Lagos flights on September 11 after partial release of blocked funds

Airline in talks with Nigerian authorities to ensure that the repatriation of outstanding and future funds will continue 'without hindrance'

Emirates had announced plans last month to cancel flights to Nigeria over blocked remittances. Reuters
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Emirates will resume flights to Lagos this month after Nigeria's central bank released a portion of the funds owed to the world's biggest long-haul airline.

The Dubai airline will reinstate flights to and from Lagos starting from September 11, a spokeswoman said on Thursday.

However, it is not possible to restart its Abuja flights in September, or resume Lagos flights earlier, as resources to support these flights — from aircraft, to crew, ground staff and catering — had been "stood down".

“Emirates welcomes the Central Bank of Nigeria’s move to release a portion of our blocked funds, and we continue to engage with the Nigerian authorities to ensure the repatriation of our outstanding and future funds may continue without hindrance,” the spokeswoman said.

The airline did not provide details on the size of the funds released or the amount that remains blocked.

Last month, Emirates announced plans to suspend flights to Nigeria after the airline experienced difficulties in repatriating funds from Africa's most populous nation.

The Central Bank of Nigeria released $265 million last week to settle outstanding ticket sales owed to airline operators in the country, it said.

The International Air Transport Association (Iata), the airline industry's biggest lobby group, said the amount of airline money blocked from repatriation by the Nigerian government had risen to $464 million in July, from $450m in June.

“Airlines can’t be expected to fly if they can’t realise revenue from ticket sales. Loss of connectivity harms the economy, hurts investor confidence, impacts jobs and people’s lives,” Iata said in a tweet on August 18.

Iata later praised the move by the Nigerian central bank to release $265m.

“We welcome the decision of the government of Nigeria to release $265 million in airline #blockedfunds. Aviation & strong air connectivity are key enablers of #Nigeria’s economy,” it said in a tweet on August 27.

Blocked remittances have plagued airlines for years, but the situation has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic that left airlines cash-strapped after two years of weak passenger travel demand.

Updated: September 01, 2022, 8:36 AM