Business Hilights

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Finally, Emirates, Kenyan airlines give dates to leave Nigeria

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Advertisements reported yesterday that ‘Emirates may suspend operations in Nigeria if….’ Our report was late yesterday evening came to pass when the Dubai-based air giant announced plans to exit Nigeria on October 30, 2016.

Whereas Emirates said the decision is due to foreign exchange hurdles, low patronage, and other operational issues, which have reduced the profitability of flying to Nigeria, East African carrier, Kenya Airways also announced it would suspend flights to Abuja effective November 15, 2016, as part of its restructuring and loss-saving efforts.

The Lagos office of Emirates group confirmed that “The decision was made after a review of the airline’s operations, to ensure best utilisation of its aircraft fleet for overall business objectives.”

With the interruption, the airline is left with once-a-day operations from Lagos.

Industry observers say the main challenge started when the scarcity of foreign exchange and partial devaluation of the naira, started last June, forcing the Dubai group to reduce flight operations, while the likes of Iberia and United Airlines, among others, withdrew services.

Already, Emirates has formally written to the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on plans to stop flight operations to Abuja.

However, indications emerged yesterday, that the development might, however, not be exclusive to Nigeria.

President of the airline, Tim Clark, at an International Air Transport Association (IATA) event in Dubai, yesterday, said Emirates could reduce the frequency of its flights to African cities or cut routes completely, if current economic and financial challenges on the continent continued.

Clark said foreign airlines flying to Africa now refuel abroad because jet fuel supplies had become more expensive and scarce.

“In certain African countries, the currencies have really gone down, so we’re reflecting on a number of these to look at where it’s just not worth the travel,” Clark said.

It would be recalled that only last June, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), foreign airlines operating in the country were estimated to have lost about N64 billion repatriating 50 per cent of the $600 million stuck in Nigeria.

President of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Bankole Bernard, said the policy and economic crunch came with huge negative effect on travel agencies and airlines, the reason they are suspending operations in the country.

Besides, the operations of the local airlines are not untouched by the challenges facing foreign concerns as the development recently forced the apex bank to ease the situation by way of agreeing to give out forex to local operators through a dedicated means.


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