Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) – Emirates Airline and Kenya Airways have announced they would suspend flights to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, citing the hostile economic environment in the country.
While suspension of Emirates flights takes effect from 22 October, that of Kenya Airways would be from 15 November.
Kenya Airways said the suspension was part of its restructuring plans to save further losses as a result of dwindling traffic from Abuja to Nairobi.
The company’s CEO, Mbuvi Ngunze, said in a statement that it would continue to operate its daily flights from Lagos to Nairobi.
Emirates Airline has written to the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, of its decision, citing inability to access foreign exchange and make returns.
The letter indicated that if the condition persisted, Emirates might have no other option than to also suspend its flights to Lagos, which would mean that the company would exit the Nigerian market.
A source said: “Emirates has huge money in naira (local currency) at the banks. It cannot repatriate its sales because it cannot buy dollars. This is having negative effect on their operations.”
Besides this, the recession in Nigeria has led to a reduction in passenger traffic, forcing foreign airlines to reassess the logistics of operating from Nigeria.
About a month ago, Emirates started refuelling in Accra, Ghana, because of the scarcity of jet fuel in Nigeria. Other foreign carriers were also forced to refuel at different locations outside the country before flying to Nigeria.
A source in the Emirates Airline’s Media office in Lagos confirmed the suspension of Abuja flights, stating: “Emirates can confirm that it’s suspending its four times weekly service between Abuja, Nigeria, and Dubai with effect from 22nd October 2016. The decision was made after a review of the airlines' operations to ensure the best utilisation of its aircraft fleet for its overall business objectives. The airline continues to serve Nigeria with a daily flight to and from Lagos.”
-0- PANA MON/MA 19Oct2016