**Update: 02/06/20 @ 09:56 UTC – An Emirates spokesperson has shared that the suspension was lifted last night, which means that the airline did not stop flying; details below.**
Flight and airline suspensions continue to abound. This week, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) slapped Gulf carrier Emirates with a 72-hour flight suspension. The three-day ban encompassed all outbound flights from Nigeria and came into effect at midnight Thursday, February 4th.
Only affects outgoing operations
According to Nigerian media outlet TheCable, the reason behind the suspension was that the airline had violated guidelines from the country’s presidential task force on COVID-19. The offense lay in accepting passengers for boarding that had rapid antigen COVID test certificates issued by laboratories not on the list of ones approved by the authorities.
The ban does not include inbound traffic, and Emirates may continue to bring passengers into the country. However, the NCAA has warned the airline that further sanctions could be imposed and that it would inform the UAE flag-carrier as to when it would be allowed to resume normal operations.
However, passengers did not actually have a choice to get their rapid antigen tests done at a government-approved facility – because there still aren’t any at Nigeria’s airports.
Emirates began requiring rapid tests on Monday
The first case of the so-called UK-variant of the virus was found in Nigeria a little over a week ago. As a result, Emirates announced that starting on February 1st, passengers would need to provide a negative rapid test result from within four hours of departure, in addition to a PCR-test no older than 72 hours.
Passengers need to pay N36,800 ($96.5) for the test at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos and N25,800 ($67.7) at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport in Abuja. However, the authorities said they had not yet certified the kiosks providing the tests. Thus, the NCAA sent a letter to Emirates with a somewhat complicated ultimatum while it worked on setting up a testing infrastructure.
“Based on the foregoing and to enable the Nigerian government to put in place the needed infrastructure and logistics for COVID-19 RDT testing for departing passengers, the PTF has directed that Emirates Airlines should either accept passengers without RDT pending when the infrastructure and logistics are put in place or suspend its flights to and from Nigeria until such a time when the required infrastructure and logistics are fully established and implemented,” the letter, seen by TheCable, said.
Did not comply with either option offered
As Emirates went ahead with accepting passengers with tests from non-government approved laboratories, the NCAA decided to shut the operations at both airports down.
“Emirates Airlines has not been in compliance with the two options given by the PTF as records obtained from Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) indicates that Emirates Airlines operated the flights from both Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja,” a statement announcing the suspension read.
A previous undercover investigation by TheCable showed that it was quite easy for passengers out of Nigeria to find ways of purchasing negative COVID test-results. If this has anything to do with the government’s insisting that test results only be provided by approved facilities is unclear.
This is not the first instance of contrition between the Dubai-based carrier and Nigeria this year. On January 12th, a court ordered the airline to pay an incredible $1.63 million to a single businessman for losing his luggage.
Simple Flying contacted Emirates for comment on the suspension. A spokesperson for the airline has since updated us that the suspension has swiftly been lifted.
The spokesperson shared the following:
“Emirates can confirm that we will continue to operate services to Abuja and Lagos. We are strongly committed to Nigeria, and would like to thank the local authorities for their trust and support. We look forward to continuing to safely connect our customers, and meet air travel demand from Nigeria to and through Dubai to Emirates’ global network.”
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