The United Arab Emirates says the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority’s action to limit Emirates’ flights to once weekly was unjustifiable.
In a letter dated December 10 and addressed to Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, and signed by Abdulla Bin Touq Al Mari, Minister of Economy and Chairman of the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority, the Arabian country said the action taken by the NCAA regarding the Air Peace’s approval at Sharjah was “not in line with the spirit of the agreed air services arrangements between our two nations”.
On Friday, Emirates announced the suspension of operations between Nigeria and Dubai until both countries resolved the fresh diplomatic row.
In a travel notice on its website on Friday evening, the United Arab Emirates flag carrier said the suspension would start on Monday until when Nigeria and the Arab nation “solve the ongoing issue”.
Al Mari said Air Peace, which initially operated at Sharjah Airport, had shifted to Dubai Airport and then returned to Sharjah Airport, saying the airport authorities could not keep their slots after the airline left.
He said, “It would be unreasonable for an airline to expect any airport to maintain their slots when they ceased operating at that airport.
“The General Civil Aviation Authority of the United Arab Emirates presents its compliments to the Federal Ministry of Aviation of Nigeria and has the honour to refer to the letter Ref. No. NCAA/DG/AIR/11/16/329 dated 9th December of 20921, whereby 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 its withdrawal become effective on Sunday 12, 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, at 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.”
The UAE aviation authority further said Sharjah Airport was currently operating at 140 per cent slot capacity — and that the country had made goodwill by accommodating Air Peace with one slot of the three requested.
It, however, urged NCAA to review the decision and restore the approval of the Emirates Airline winter schedule, as filed.
“We wish to kindly advise you that Sharjah Airport is currently operating at 140% slot capacity, but with goodwill and tremendous efforts 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 line with 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 the positive relations.
“Finally, we suggest that Air Peace should consider flying their two 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 purely an operational matter between Air Peace and Sharjah Airport, and in any case, it should have absolutely no implication for Emirates Airline,” the letter added.