The UAE's minister of Economy urged Sirika to prevail on the NCAA to review its action.
Following the Federal Government’s withdrawal of Emirates winter schedule in Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has written the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika seeking a review of the action against Emirates Airline.
The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had on Thursday, December 9, 2021, withdrawn the 21 frequencies earlier approved for Emirates.
The NCAA also reduced the weekly flights of the Dubai-based airline to Abuja from seven to one.
According to the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Shuaibu Nuhu, the action followed the refusal of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) to grant the three frequencies requested by Air Peace.
As a result of this action, the airline on Friday, December 10, 2021, suspended all its flights to Nigeria indefinitely.
However, in a letter to Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, the UAE’s Minister of Economy and Chairman of the GCAA Board, Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri, explained the reason the Air Peace' request was not granted.
Al Marri said the issue that led to the withdrawal of Emirates schedule was an operational one between the Nigeria carrier and Sharjah Airport, adding that the issue had nothing to do with Emirates.
In the letter dated December 10, 2021, the minister urged Sirika to prevail on the NCAA to review its action.
The letter reads: “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 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 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.”
Meanwhile, in a statement announcing the suspension of its flights to Nigeria, the airline said it stands ready to reinstate its services once restrictions are lifted by the Nigerian authorities.