Nigeria, UAE row over flight operations deepen

Civil aviation authorities in the United Arab Emirates have advised Nigeria’s Air Peace to consider flying to any UAE airport that has additional slots for it, and not insist on taking three slots at the country’s Sharjah Airport, in a new move as the two countries attempt to work through a row over flight slots that have threatened relations between them.

Emirates, the Dubai-based carrier, on Friday announced an indefinite suspension of flights to Nigeria, saying its action was in response to a restriction by the Nigerian government limiting its flights to the country to just once a week.

The government had on Thursday limited the carrier’s daily flights to Abuja to a single run a week and denied approval for the airline’s winter schedule.

 The Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Musa Nuhu, said the government took that step after authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) denied Nigeria’s only carrier to Dubai, Air Peace, the three frequencies it requested at UAE’s Sharjah Airport.

“With the recently imposed directive limiting Emirates to operate one flight per week to Nigeria via Abuja, Emirates will be suspending its flights between Nigeria and Dubai from 13 December 2021, until the UAE and Nigerian authorities work on a solution to the ongoing issue,” Emirates announced on its website.

In a December 10 letter to Nigeria’s aviation minister, Hadi Sirika, the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority said Air Peace’s demand was “unreasonable”.

“Air Peace initially operated at Sharjah Airport, shifted to Dubai Airport and then returned to Sharjah airport. It would be unreasonable for an airline to expect any airport to maintain their slots when they ceased operating at that airport,” it said.

“In this regard, we wish to kindly advise you that Sharjah Aiport is currently operating at 140% slot, but with goodwill and tremendous effort on their side, this airport was able to accommodate Air Peace with 1 of the 3 slots this airline requested.

“The GCAA wishes to stress that the action being taken by the NCAA is obviously not in line with the spirit of the agreed air services arrangements between our two Nations.

“As we are both aware, the relations between our two brotherly countries are vintage, one hallmark being the recent visit of the President of Nigeria to the UAE, which certainly ignored the status of these positive relations.

“Finally, we suggest that Air Peace should consider flying their two other flights to any UAE airport at which there are available slots. As expected, the GCAA will support Air Peace in this activity, if required.”

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