The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Minister of Economy, Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri, has said that it is unreasonable for the Arab nation to retain the slots of Nigeria-based Air Peace airline at the Sharjah International Airport.
This statement follows the now trending diplomatic fireworks between Nigeria and the UAE.
According to the minister, who is also the chairman of the General Civil Aviation Authority in the UAE, it is unjust, the decision of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to withdraw its approval for Emirates Airline winter schedule, cutting down the carrier’s passenger flights to just once a week.
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Al Marri made this known in a letter penned on December 10, 2021, and addressed to the Nigerian Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika.
On Thursday, the Nigerian Government in a letter through the NCAA Director-General, Musa Nuhu, reduced the flights of Emirates Airlines to just one per week.
Only about a week ago, Nigeria had lifted the ban on Emirates Airline’s flights to Nigeria after suspending the carrier from operating into Nigeria for several months earlier, due to concerns over UAE carrier’s requirements in the management of COVID-19.
Nuhu had stated that following the lifting of the ban, the UAE-based airline applied to the Federal Ministry of Aviation for approval of its winter flight schedule, consisting of 21 weekly passenger flight frequencies to Nigeria, noting that Nigeria approved the schedule in the spirit and intent of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement between both countries.
However, he expressed dissatisfaction that Air Peace Airlines, the only Nigerian airline that operates passenger flights to Sharjah International Airport in the UAE, requested three weekly passenger flight frequencies but was granted only one.
Following this development, Emirates Airline on Friday announced the suspension of its flights to Nigeria, attributing its decision to the NCAA policy limiting its operation in the country to one flight per week.
Read the UAE minister’s full letter addressed to the Nigerian aviation minister below:
AIR TRANSPORT RELATIONS
The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) presents its compliments to the Federal Ministry of Aviation (FMA) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and has the honour to refer to the letter Ref. No. NCAA/DG/AIR/11/16/329 dated 9th December 2021, whereby the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) notified the Country Manager, Emirates Airline (EK) in Nigeria regarding the withdrawal of the ministerial approval granted to that airline with respect to their Winter Schedule. The NCAA further advised EK that this withdrawal becomes effective on Sunday 12th December 2021 at 2300Z and hence, EK “is granted approval to operate only one weekly passenger frequency to Abuja on Thursdays”.
The GCAA has the honour to highlight that such a decision by the NCAA is totally unjustified especially, as it has come to our attention that their action is being taken against the background of Air Peace not securing all 3 slots at Sharjah Airport which they desire. (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.) In this regard, we wish to kindly advise you. that Sharjah Airport is currently operating at 140% slot capacity, but with goodwill and tremendous effort on their Side, this Airport was able to accommodate Air Peace with 1 of the 3 slots that 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 in nature, one hallmark being the recent visit of the President of Nigeria to the UAE, which certainly mirrored 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, where required.
Your Excellency, your kind support is anticipated so that the NCAA reviews their decision and restores the approval of the Emirates Airline Winter Schedule, as filed. In this regard, we wish to reiterate that this is a purely operational matter between Air Peace and Sharjah Airport and in any case it should have absolutely no implications for Emirates Airline.
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