West News Wire: Emirates, a long-distance airline located in Dubai, has announced that it will stop flying to Nigeria as of the beginning of the following month due to its inability to retrieve payments from the continent’s most populous country.
The decision made public on Thursday brings attention to the challenges encountered by foreign airlines who fly to Nigeria, one of the largest markets in Africa.
Due to a lack of dollars, the African nation has limited access to foreign cash for imports and for investors looking to return their earnings. Nigeria depends on oil for nearly 90% of its foreign exchange, but production has been hampered by pipeline theft and years of underinvestment.
The International Air Transport Association reported in June that Nigeria was withholding $450 million in profits from foreign carriers doing business there.
Emirates said it had made no progress in efforts to initiate dialogue with the relevant authorities for their urgent intervention.
“Therefore, Emirates has taken the difficult decision to suspend all flights to and from Nigeria, effective 1 September 2022, to limit further losses and impact on our operational costs that continue to accumulate in the market,” it said in a statement.
A Federal Ministry of Aviation spokesperson in Nigeria did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Emirates had sent a letter to the government saying it could cut flights to Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, this month because it could not get $85m stuck in the country as of July, a figure that had been rising by $10m per month.
Emirates said it would re-evaluate its decision if the situation over the blocked funds changed in the coming days.
Affected customers would be helped to make alternative travel arrangements where possible, it added.
Amid similar foreign exchange restrictions in 2016, several airlines reduced flights and carriers Iberia and United Airlines stopped flying to Nigeria altogether. United re-launched a Nigerian service last year, but Iberia has yet to return.
In May, a number of domestic airlines suspended flights due to soaring jet fuel prices.