Crisis Averted: Emirates Could Return To Nigeria After Air Peace Deal

In the latest installment of the UAE-Nigeria aviation drama, it seems the UAE has backed down on its allocation of slots for Nigerian airline Air Peace. In a letter seen by Simple Flying, Dubai Airports has allocated slots at Dubai (DXB) for Air Peace, instead of at Sharjah. This paves the way for Emirates to also restart flights to Nigeria, pending confirmation of the removal of restrictions on its capacity.

Air Peace has been granted slots at DXB in lieu of lack of capacity in Sharjah. Photo: Air Peace

UAE backs down over Air Peace slot allocation

In the latest twist to the UAE-Nigeria air transportation row, it appears the UAE has backed down over its slot allocation to Nigeria’s Air Peace. Previously, Sharjah Airport had refused to give Air Peace back its three weekly rotations to the airport, citing congestion and lack of space as the reasons for refusal.

Having been offered only one slot pair at Sharjah for Air Peace, the Nigerian Federal Government had retaliated by stripping UAE airline Emirates of its slots in the country. Rather than flying daily to both Lagos and Abuja, the airline was to be restricted to a single rotation to Abuja only per week. Emirates pulled its services entirely just days before the restriction was due to kick in.

The row intensified yesterday when it appeared the UAE had blocked all Nigerians from entering the country, regardless of the airline used. Reports came in of a number of Nigerians being deplaned from an Ethiopian Airlines flight as they were holding tickets to Dubai. Now, it seems the UAE is ready to smooth things over.

In a document seen by Simple Flying addressed to Allen Onyema, Chairman and CEO of Air Peace, and sent by Mohammed Ahli, Director General of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Dubai Airports has allocated slots at Dubai (DXB) for Air Peace. Specifically, slots have been allocated to arrive at 05:40 seven days a week, with departure at 08:00, and also to arrive at 05:10 every day except Saturday, with the same departure.

This granting of up to 26 slots is a massive U-turn from the UAE, which had previously denied Air Peace’s application for just six weekly slots at Sharjah Airport. The letter notes that,

“… relations between our two countries go a long way back and we value these relations immensely. We surely wish to facilitate easy and safe travel for the people, between our two brotherly countries.”

The communication further notes that the slots cannot be blocked indefinitely, and requests that Air Peace confirms which of the slots it wishes to retain and operate by this Thursday. Previously, Air Peace served Sharjah just three times per week, with a bus connection onwards to Dubai. To tick this up to a daily rotation direct to Dubai will be a significant upgrade for the airline, although the fees to use a big airport such as DXB will undoubtedly be higher.

Emirates to return to Nigeria?

UAE airline Emirates had pulled its services from Nigeria entirely after being advised it would only be allowed one flight per week to the nation. Now, with tensions easing, the airline is making plans to return to the country shortly. Country Manager Paulos Legesse met with the Federal Government today to discuss the matter.

While the outcome of the meeting is as yet unknown, it’s likely the UAE flag carrier will be keen to reinstate its services as soon as possible. We’ll keep readers updated as news is received.

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