Nigeria’s minister responsible for aviation announced on Friday, November 26th that the country would be lifting its restrictions on flights operated by Emirates. This policy change will allow the Dubai-based carrier to resume services from the UAE to Lagos (Nigeria) as early as December 1st.
As noted by Reuters, Nigeria is lifting restrictions on Emirates flights after suspending the airline in March. After a three-day ban on outbound flights imposed in early February due to airline-imposed COVID-19 testing, a more firm suspension was imposed on March 17th. The ban covered both inbound and outbound passengers and has been in place since then.
Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika explained at the time that the UAE’s travel ban on Nigerians was “discriminatory against our country and it is not acceptable.” It appears that the airline and the Nigerian government have now come to an agreement, with Sirika announcing the following on Friday:
“Today we received communications from Emirates removing some of the conditions for travelling for which we had concerns…Having done that it is necessary to lift the ban on Emirates. This subsequent lifting of ban is a product of lengthy negotiations between us and them.”
Flights available from December 1st
According to Emirates’ own booking and flight reservation system, flights to both Abuja and Lagos from Dubai are available from December 1st. Interestingly, however, FlightRadar24.com notes that the airline has a Boeing 777-300ER operating the Dubai-Lagos service on November 30th as well, something that does not appear to be available on the airline’s website.
Flying from Dubai to Lagos is Emirates flight EK783 inbound and EK784 return. This appears to be a daily service that will take just over eight hours flying west and just over seven hours flying east.
The flight between Dubai and Abuja is Emirates EK785 inbound and EK786 return. To Abuja, the flight will take roughly seven hours and 40 minutes, while the service to Dubai is scheduled to be six hours and 35 minutes in duration.
Disagreement over testing regimes
The entire dispute was based on Emirates’ COVID-19 testing regime applied to travelers from Nigeria.
As we reported in March, the airline wanted its passengers departing Nigeria to have three COVID-19 tests within 24 hours. This was to include an initial PCR test, a rapid antigen test at the airport, and a PCR test at the arrival airport. Minister Sirika called the requirement nonsensical, quoted at the time as saying: “Since they insist, their operations remain suspended.” The Nigerian government insisted that a single PCR test with 72 hours of departure was sufficient.
The Emirates website currently has the following requirements for travelers from Nigeria:
- A valid negative COVID‑19 PCR test certificate with a QR code for a test conducted within 48 hours, validity should be calculated from the time the sample was collected, prior to departure from an approved health facility
- A rapid PCR test report with a QR code for a test conducted at the departure airport within six hours of departure
Additionally, the airline’s website adds: “For passengers traveling to Dubai as their final destination from Nigeria, travel is currently not possible as there are no rapid PCR testing facilities at the airport.” However, it is unknown if this information is merely out-of-date and needs to be updated, since the suspension was only recently lifted. Simple Flying has reached out to the airline for more information.