Despite the decision of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities to concede six slots to Air Peace in Dubai International Airport, the fate of Emirates Airline remained unknown as of Wednesday.
The uncertainty persists 48 hours after the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA) wrote to Air Peace, saying six slots have been “confirmed and blocked” for the Nigerian flag carrier to fly to Dubai.
The concession of six slots in Dubai is added to the one slot already granted to the carrier in Sharjah where it originally flies to.
The withdrawal of the winter schedule comprising 21 frequencies (14 in Lagos and seven in Abuja) earlier approved for Emirates has precipitated diplomatic tension between the two countries.
The federal government had through the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) imposed heavy restrictions on Emirates, reducing its frequencies from 21 to only weekly to be operated on Thursdays, in retaliation for the denial of three slots Air Peace requested for in Sharjah.
Emirates had, rather than accepting the new order which formally takes effect today (Thursday), suspended all its flights to Nigeria pending the resolution of the issue.
But there was a ray of hope on Tuesday after the letter written by the Dubai CAA granting six slots to Air Peace in Dubai Airports where it wasn’t operating before the present imbroglio.
Almost 72 hours after the Dubai CAA letter, there was uncertainty over when the federal government would review the ban on Emirates and probably restore its winter schedule.
Air Peace was said to be studying the letter as of Tuesday while the federal government has not spoken on the next step after the UAE authorities bowed to pressure by granting six slots to the Nigerian carrier.
Meanwhile, the umbrella body of all airlines in Nigeria, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), has commended the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Abubakar Sirika, for the courageous way he stood up for the honour, dignity and respect to Nigeria’s sovereignty as a nation on the diplomatic matter between Nigeria and the UAE.
The operators said they were not opposed to any airline coming into Nigeria but frowned at “the underhand actions of these airlines and their countries in making it difficult for Nigerian airlines to get the necessary permits to operate in their countries.”
President of AON, Alhaji Abdulmunaf Yunusa, in a statement, said the stance of President Muhammadu Buhari on the issue had emboldened the minister of Aviation to reciprocate with equal measure the treatment meted out to a Nigerian airline operating into the UAE.
“The AON wishes to commend the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Abubakar Sirika, for the courageous way he stood up for the honour, dignity and respect to our sovereignty as a nation on this matter.
“AON is not unmindful of the leading roles the minister played in getting our dear president to sign the Customs Duty and VAT waivers into law immediately the National Assembly passed the bill.
“We commend President Muhammadu Buhari’s government for standing solidly and protectively behind not only Nigerian airlines but also indigenous investments and investors in Nigeria.
“By the recent reciprocal actions undertaken by the federal government, national sense of pride and belief in Nigeria rose to an all-time high.”
The airline operators also commended the Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu, for his dogged and courageous actions which did not leave anyone in doubt about his resolve to do all within his capacity not to allow any country to disrespect us.
The AON noted that it is not opposed to other foreign airlines operating into Nigeria.
“We encourage the Federal Government of Nigeria to continue to reciprocate, in equal measures, against any country that tries, in any manner whatsoever, to disrespect our sovereignty again,” the body added.