Stakeholders seek FG’s intervention on UAE’s policy on Nigerian passengers

By Chinelo Obogo

The recent COVID-19 policy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), restricting Nigerian passengers from transiting through other airports into Dubai City, has been condemned by aviation industry stakeholders.
In a letter from the Airports Operations Control Center, Dubai, sent to Nigerian Travel Trade partners, it said passengers from Nigeria can no longer travel through other countries or airports to the city. The notice by Dubai Airports came after the United Kingdom blocked passengers from Dubai from entering the UK on January 29, as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The notice was titled, ‘Dubai Travel Protocol Update –Travel from Nigeria’ and it read: “Kindly be advised that effective from 01 February, 2021, the following conditions must be met for travel from Nigeria: All passengers are required to obtain a negative COVID-19 certificate. The PCR should be conducted within 72 hours of the date of departure.
“All passengers are required to conduct a rapid COVID-19 test and obtain a negative result within four hours of their departure time. Passengers must travel directly from Nigeria to Dubai. No passenger may enter Dubai from any other country/station if they have visited or transited from Nigeria in the last 14 days.”
What this policy implies is that no other airline would be able to fly Nigerian passengers straight to Dubai besides Emirates, a UAE owned airline which has its major hub at the Dubai International Airport. Only two airlines currently fly directly from Nigeria to UAE; Emirates and Air Peace, with the latter operating from Sharjah. It may also affect the planned operations of Azman Air which is scheduled to begin flights into the UAE later in the year.
Industry stakeholders believe that Dubai is intentionally creating monopoly for Emirates Airline with this policy and are urging the Federal Government to intervene by reciprocating as the development would greatly increase the cost of travel.
AviationRound Table(ART) argued that besides creating capacity for Emirates, the policy negates the Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) which Nigeria and the UAE operate. They further urged Nigerian carriers to request reciprocity.
“What this implies is that Emirates will be the sole airline operating to Dubai. This goes against the bilateral air agreement between the two countries. Nigeria is at a position to reject this unilateral imposition based on the huge passenger traffic from Nigeria to UAE. Air Peace through the Nigerian government should request for direct flight to Dubai in the interim. If the request is denied, then it’s up to the government to also ban Emirates from flying to Nigeria,”ART said.
However, the Chief Operating Officer of Air Peace, Mrs. Toyin Olajide, explained that the COVID-19 rapid test at the airport four hours before departure does not affect the airline’s passengers who are expected to submit 72 hours coronavirus test result before the departure of their flights.
“We wish to draw the attention of our guests who intend to travel to Sharjah-Dubai with Air Peace that they are not expected to undergo rapid COVID-19 test at the airport four hours before departure, as indicated in the new Emirates COVID-19 protocols. They are expected to submit their 72 hours before departure test result,” Olajide said.

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