Nigeria started welcoming back international airlines on the weekend. After six months of banning international flights, Nigeria re-opened both Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport in Abuja and Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos on Saturday. Already, airlines are lining up to fly back into the country.
“We are delighted to resume flights to Lagos,” said Qatar Airways CEO, Akbar Al Baker in a statement seen by Simple Flying. “We know the Nigerian diaspora is spread across the globe, and we are thankful to the Nigerian Government for their support in helping us to reunite family and friends with their loved ones.”
A Qatar Airways Dreamliner won’t start touching down in Lagos until September 10. Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines was the first international airline to fly in. Its flight from Beruit touched down in Lagos mid-afternoon on Saturday. Also coming in on Saturday was a British Airways flight from London Heathrow.
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Nigeria picks and chooses who gets to fly in
These airlines join a list of ‘approved’ international airlines cleared to fly into Nigeria. Also on the list are Delta Air Lines, Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates, Asky Airlines, Africa World Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Air Cote d’Ivoire, Turkish Airlines, Air Peace, Kenya Airlines, and Egyptair.
There are also a few international airlines that didn’t make the cut. That includes Air France, Etihad, KLM, Rwanda Air, Lufthansa, Royal Air Maroc, TAAG Angola, and Air Namibia. None got approval to fly into Nigeria right now.
This appears to be an issue of reciprocality rather than any particular health issue coming out of, say, France. If countries had blocked Nigerian carriers from flying in or presented obstacles when Nigeria was trying to repatriate its citizens, Nigeria is now returning the favor.
“The reason for Air France is that tourist’s business holders are not allowed entry. KLM is not approved for the same reason as Air France. Delta Air Lines; no restrictions. USA; we have an Open Skies with them, and they also allow us in,” Senator Hadi Sirika, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Aviation told the This Day website last week.
Limitations on passenger and flight numbers
For those airlines allowed to fly in, it’s not a free for all at Nigeria’s two airports now re-opened for business. Nigeria is allowing a maximum of 1,280 inbound passengers or four flights a day into both Abuja and Lagos. So flights are getting staggered, and frequencies are less than what they were previously. Despite this, airlines are keen to fly into Nigeria again. Emirates and Ethiopian Airlines both resumed flying into Lagos on Monday.
Senator Sirika says the flight and passenger limitations ere a temporary measure. The Nigerian government wants to watch how things go and see if the inbound passengers present Nigeria with any fresh health challenges.
Emirates will be operating four times a week into Lagos and daily in Abuja. It’s a small start, but its a start. Up until the beginning of 2020, Nigeria was Africa’s second-biggest aviation market after South Africa. About 30 international airlines flew into to various Nigerian airports, generating around US$1.2 billion in revenue for them.
There are complaints of an ad hoc planning process and high ticket prices in recent weeks. But tickets on Nigeria bound flights are selling well. There are clearly a lot of Nigerians keen to get home.