Emirates hits out at call to curb ‘unfair’ operations in Nigeria

Emirates airline has refuted claims by a Nigerian aviation official that its operations in the African country should be restricted by the government and are a threat to local jobs and operators.

In reports published on Sunday, Captain Nogie Meggisson, chairman of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), complained that the Nigerian government had given Emirates permission to operate an additional daily flights between the United Arab Emirates and Nigeria.

“The move effectively places our indigenous carriers at a massive disadvantage, the Nigerian economy and the jobs of our youths and huge capital flight,” he said in a statement issued by the state-backed News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

However, the Dubai-based airline denied that new scheduled flights had been added and this was simply a seasonal adjustment.

“Emirates would like to clarify that we have not increased scheduled flight services to Abuja or Lagos. We had only operated extra flights to Abuja and Lagos for a very limited period, for the sole purpose of serving Nigerian pilgrims traveling to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for Hajj,” an Emirates spokesperson said.

Meggisson also repeated long disputed claims used by American airlines that UAE airlines have a disadvantage as they are government subsidised and called on the Nigerian government to restrict their “aggressive” expansion into Nigeria, claiming it was in favour of national carriers such as Air Peace, which last month launched direct flights between Sharjah and Lagos.

“It is the role of government therefore to protect our very own Nigerian carriers and preserve the Nigerian economy and the jobs of our unemployed youths. The additional double daily flights given to Emirates, a highly subsidised airline, is not necessary at this time as statistics show that half of the flights out of Abuja are half empty,” Meggisson told NAN.

“The Emirati airlines already have an unfair trade advantage of 150 flights monthly out of Nigeria; as against 12 monthly flights for Nigerian airlines. We will therefore like to use this medium to call on the government to review all existing Bilateral Air Services Agreements to readdress the unfair trade advantage given to foreign airlines against Nigerian airlines.”

Positive benefits

The Emirates spokesperson hit out at the subsidies claim and emphasised the positive benefits UAE airlines bring to the country by offering Nigerian consumers more travel and trade opportunities.

“Some detractors like to claim that Emirates receives government subsidies and therefore represent unfair competition. But these allegations are patently false, and we have repeatedly debunked these myths over the years. Our audited financial reports for the past 20 years are published on our website for anyone to inspect. Emirates has always been run on a commercial basis,” the spokesperson said.

“International carriers operating in Nigeria offer a greater choice for consumers, and are also crucial to supporting Nigerian tourism and trade. Emirates first started operations to Lagos in 2004, and we have since remained committed to Nigeria. During this time, we have helped facilitate trade between Nigeria and other international markets, and provided travellers coming into, or travelling from, Nigeria the option of enjoying the award-winning Emirates experience. We look forward to continue serving our customers in Nigeria, and to working with stakeholders to support the progressive development of tourism and trade.”

Nigeria’s flag carrier, Air Peace, launched flights from Lagos to Sharjah on July 5. In what was its first international flight, the airline transported 316 passengers on its 324-seater Boeing 777-300 aircraft. The route between Nigeria and the UAE will operate three times weekly.

When contacted by Arabian Business, Air Peace declined to comment on Meggisson’s statements.

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