Emirates to resume Nigeria flights, ending nearly two-year suspension

Dubai-based airline will offer daily service to Lagos from October 1, after holding talks to repatriate outstanding ticket sales revenue

A Boeing 777, operated by Emirates airline. A similar plane will serve Lagos from Dubai, with eight first-class suites, 42 business-class seats and 304 seats in economy. Bloomberg
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Emirates will resume flights to Nigeria in October after a nearly two-year suspension, during which the airline was in discussions with government authorities to repatriate its outstanding ticket sales revenue that was withheld in the country.

The Dubai-based airline will offer a daily service to Lagos from October 1 using a Boeing 777-300ER and tickets are now available for booking, it said in a statement on Thursday. It suspended flights to the city on October 29, 2022.

"We thank the Nigerian government for their partnership and support in re-establishing this route," said Adnan Kazim, Emirates’ deputy president and chief commercial officer.

"The Lagos-Dubai service has traditionally been popular with customers in Nigeria and we hope to reconnect leisure and business travellers to Dubai and onwards to our network of over 140 destinations."

The biggest foreign airline flying in and out of Nigeria this month is Ethiopian Airlines, with 29,085 seats, followed by Qatar Airways with 27,099 and British Airways with 15,021, according to aviation data provider Cirium.

Emirates in 2022 operated 438 flights to Nigeria before suspending them in October of that year, Cirium said.

In March 2023, Emirates said it was owed a “substantial” amount in ticket revenue by Nigerian authorities, with little progress made in repatriating the blocked payments from Africa's most populous nation. It declined to reveal the amount withheld.

Emirates said at the time it was ready to work with the Nigerian government and the central bank to find a solution to unlock the blocked funds and agree on "firm measures" to prevent future repatriation accumulation.

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FILE PHOTO: An Emirates Airline Airbus A380-800 plane takes off from Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates February 15, 2019.  REUTERS / Christopher Pike / File Photo

Billions in blocked payments globally

As of January, the amount of airlines' blocked payments in Africa and the Middle East stood at $1.8 billion, while globally the figure stood at $2.27 billion, according to the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

This leads to depriving the aviation industry of much-needed cash, risking reduced air connectivity and damaging investors' perceptions of these economies, Iata said in June.

Airlines cannot continue to offer services in markets where they are unable to repatriate revenue arising from their commercial activities in these areas, the global airline lobby group said.

Nigeria ranked as the top country worldwide for withholding airlines' revenue, according to Iata data.

Nigeria's airline repatriation issues began in March 2020, when demand for foreign currency in the country outpaced supply and its banks were not able to service currency repatriations.

Nearly 20 routes in Africa

With the resumption of operations to Nigeria, Emirates has 19 routes to Africa, with 157 weekly flights from Dubai. It also offers connections to 130 regional points in Africa through its codeshare and interline partnerships with South African Airways, Airlink, Royal Air Maroc and Tunis Air, among others.

With the resumption of daily passenger flights, the airline’s cargo arm, Emirates SkyCargo, will offer more than 300 tonnes of belly-hold cargo capacity, in and out of Lagos every week.

Emirates SkyCargo will support Nigerian businesses by exporting their goods via its hub in Dubai, into key markets such as the UAE, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Bahrain, with key commodities such as Kola Nuts, food and drink, and urgent courier material, the airline said.

The Emirates Boeing 777-300ER serving Lagos will operate with eight first-class suites, 42 business-class seats and 304 seats in economy.

Updated: May 16, 2024, 2:53 PM