Nigeria loses 20% passenger traffic over Emirates, Etihad exit

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•Foreign airlines rally behind controversial rapid antigen test
The suspension of Emirates Airlines and Etihad’s withdrawal from Nigerian airspace has cost the country, at least, a 20 per cent decline in international passenger traffic.

The Guardian learned that the decline was a major setback for air travel’s gradual recovery that earlier climbed to 45 per cent of pre-COVID-19 traffic.

Meanwhile, foreign airlines have rallied behind the controversial rapid antigen tests as a better alternative to the popular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test standard for COVID-19. To that effect, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged governments to accept best-in-class rapid antigen tests following the publication of new research findings.

The Federal Government lately suspended the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) national carrier, Emirates, over the arbitrary imposition of rapid antigen testing on Nigerian travellers to UAE, and refusal to reverse the order.

From findings, Emirates and Dubai Airport authorities took the extra safety measures following cases of fake COVID-19 PCR test results coming from Nigeria, among others, in the wake of a spike in COVID-19 cases in the UAE.
Similarly, Etihad voluntarily withdrew services from Nigeria though quietly.

Chairman of the Airline Passenger Joint Committee (APJC), Bankole Bernard, yesterday said the withdrawal of the UAE airlines was unfortunate, with a significant impact on passenger traffic.

Bernard, who is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Finchglow Travels, said the market’s erstwhile recovery of 45 per cent had in the last two weeks slumped to 15 per cent following the withdrawal of both Emirates and Etihad.

“That is so because Nigerians are not allowed into the UAE. Besides frequencies to Dubai, Nigerians had often connected other parts of the world through Dubai given their effective connectivity, which other destinations and airlines don’t have. So, the withdrawal of Emirates and Etihad is a big loss for all,” he said.

Bernard added that the UAE authorities were not to blame for the additional rapid antigen test controversy.

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