The United Arab Emirates, Dubai-based mega carrier, Emirates Airlines, has extended the date for suspension to airlift Nigerian passengers from the Abuja and Lagos airports to March 10, 2021.
The airline said in a statement signed by its management that it would on March 10, 2021, review its protocols, and may begin outbound flights from Nigeria after that date.
The airline had earlier stated that it would resume the outbound flights from February 28, 2021, but now "expressed regret that it would extend the suspension to March 10."
The statement issued by the airline was also in tandem with the mail sent to its Nigerian passengers, telling them that the February 28 date of reopening flights would not be feasible, but stated that it would continue to operate flights from Dubai to Nigeria.
The statement titled: 'Temporary Suspension of PAX uplift from Nigeria to Dubai-update', said: "In line with government directives, passenger services from Nigeria (Lagos and Abuja) to Dubai are temporarily suspended until March 10 2021. Customers from both Abuja and Lagos will not be accepted for travel prior to or including this date. Passengers who have been to or connected through Nigeria in the last 14 days are not allowed entry into the UAE (whether terminating in or connecting through Dubai). Emirates flights from Dubai to Lagos and Abuja will continue to operate as per the normal schedule. We regret the inconvenience caused, and affected customers should contact their booking agent or Emirates call centre for rebooking. Emirates remains committed to Nigeria, and we look forward to resuming passenger services to Dubai for our customers when conditions allow," the airline said.
It also stated that the operational status of Emirates services from Nigeria after the March 10, 2021, is under review and further updates would be published in due course.
"For passengers affected, kindly apply re-booking options provided in our COVID-19 waiver policy previously communicated. We hope to revert to you as soon as possible regarding the status of our future flights," the airline said.
Since February 1, 2021, Emirates had introduced stricter COVID-19 protocols for its Nigerian passengers by insisting on administering Rapid Antigens Test (RDT) on passengers four hours before their flight, but the federal government resisted this protocol and temporarily banned and then unbanned the airline, saying it would have to provide the infrastructure for the test before the airline would continue with it.
Emirates stance might not be unconnected with its ban from the United Kingdom and other countries over the new strain of COVID-19 virus allegedly imported from Dubai, prompting UAE authorities to harden its protocols for visitors to Dubai.
UAE authorities had also banned Nigerian passengers transiting from other airports to Dubai and refusing to allow other airlines to administer Dubai bound passengers with the RDT.
Since the federal government upturned its decision to conduct RDT test on passengers, Emirates has not airlifted Nigerian passengers to Dubai.