***UPDATED 04/12/2019 @ 09:25 UTC following official response from Emirates***
Yesterday a report surfaced in Nigerian media showing an order has been issued by Nigerian federal court to seize an Emirates Boeing 777. This is because a judge has ruled that the airline owes 8.1 Nigerian Naira (approximately US$22,400) to a Nigerian citizen for expenses incurred when a ticket was canceled unexpectedly in 2007.
Where it all started
According to official legal filings, the matter stems from a ticket purchased in 2007 for $2,067 USD to enable Miss Promise Mekwunye to travel from Dallas – Houston – Dubai – Lagos and back. The ticket was confirmed more than three times before Mekwunye’s travel date on 17th December 2007.
On the day of her flight, Mekwunye showed up at the airport but was denied boarding without being given any reason for the denial. The filings state “she was merely told that the ticket had been canceled”. From here, no alternative plans nor accommodation were arranged by the airline.
Mekwunye sought assistance from her father, who assisted her in purchasing another flight going out the next day. The flight was with a different airline using a longer route via London. The cost of this was US$3,200.
The matter was taken to court and in 2010 this is what the court had to say:
“[Emirates] refusal to carry the (Appellant) from Dallas on the 17th December, 2007 amounts to a breach of contract of carriage with (her)…No limitation to liability applies here”.
Consequently, the trial Court ordered “the ticket refund to the (Appellant) should be in full without any deduction or charge,” with a “further grant of N2.5 million in general damages and N250,000.00 in legal costs” to the Mekwunye.
Appeal after appeal
The matter was then taken to a court of appeal where Emirates won. However, Mekwunye appealed this ruling and took it to the Supreme Court. At the very bottom of the document it states that the decision was held:
“…the Court found merit in the appeal and accordingly allowed same…The judgment of the Federal High Court was restored…”
The most recent development now is that a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the seizure of an aircraft belonging to Emirates Airlines until it settles what is owed to the appellant.
This is what Justice Mohammed Liman had to say upon his ruling:
“It is accordingly ordered that an attachment is hereby issued on the judgment debtor’s aircraft registered as ‘A6 Aircraft Type 77W EK: 783/784’, or any other aircraft belonging to the judgment debtor which flies into Nigeria Territory, to be arrested and detained until the judgment debt is fully paid: in default after 30 days, the aircraft shall be auctioned to satisfy the judgment debt.”
So far it doesn’t look like Nigerian authorities have taken action to seize an Emirates aircraft yet. The airline flies twice daily into Lagos on EK781 and EK 783. According to FlightRadar24 both return flights to Dubai (782 and 784) are still scheduled today.
We’ve contacted Emirates with a request for comment. Here’s what they had to say:
‘Emirates respects the judgement of the Supreme Court and will follow all legal procedures related to the specific case. In the meantime, Emirates will take every measure to safeguard its operations in Nigeria to avoid any disruption to our customers’.
With the total funds owed to the appellant amounting to just over US$22,400, it would make economic sense for Emirates to transfer the funds immediately in order to avoid any disruption of its flights. The seizure of one of its aircraft could cost the airline far more in lost revenue.
We still don’t know why the Emirates ticket was canceled in the first place but it is certainly interesting that the airline has been so firm with its position – even appealing the initial ruling.
What do you think of this whole case? Should Emirates just pay up and move on? Let us know by leaving a comment!