• Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Why Emirates mulls operations without visa ban lift


Travel experts and sources close to Emirates Airlines have told BusinessDay that Emirates would operate flights into Nigeria whether the visa ban on Nigerians is lifted or not.

Following the announcement by Emirates that it would resume services to Nigeria from 1 October 2024, the airline has already opened bookings for sales of tickets and Nigerian travel agents have started selling tickets to passengers who want to travel with the airline from 1st of October, BusinessDay’s findings show.

BusinessDay’s findings also show that the visa ban by the United Arab Emirates, (UAE) is a ban only on tourist visas and not other types of visas such as student, medical and work visas. This therefore implies that Nigerians with work, student or medicals visas can still travel to Dubai.

Read also: Return of Emirates reeks of contempt, disdain towards Nigeria – former minister

Also Nigerians with a second passport can also fly with Emirates to Dubai.

Recall that in 2022, the United Arab Emirates, (UAE) banned nationals of Nigeria and a few other African countries from entering its capital city, Dubai.

“This is to inform you that we will not be posting 30 days visa applications for these nationalities effective today October 18, 2022,” the notice read in part.

Aside from Nigeria, other countries affected by the visa ban included Uganda, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Cameroon, Liberia, Burundi, Republic of Guinea, Gambia, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Benin, Ivory Coast, Congo, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Comoros, and the Dominican Republic.

Over the past 18 months, Nigeria and the UAE have battled several diplomatic rows.

Susan Akporaiye, former president of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) told BusinessDay that Emirates is an airline that goes to so many countries, adding that beyond Dubai, Emirates flies into other destinations.

“Emirates go to Europe, the United States of America, Australia, China, India and other African countries. Emirates airlines is not an airline that flies only to Dubai. So what it just means is that if the visa ban for Nigerians has not been lifted, it means that Emirates will be servicing onward.

“This means that their coming back will not be for the Nigeria-Dubai route alone. It is for onward and remember that the visa ban doesn’t mean people are not going to Dubai. There are Nigerians that have a second passport. Those people can board Emirates airlines to Dubai. Medical visas, work visas and student visas to Dubai are still being issued.

“The ban is on tourist visa. Student visas are still being issued even if Emirates have not been flying. Students have been using other airlines to go to Dubai. Nigerians with UK and American passports still go to Dubai with other airlines. Visa ban would not stop Emirates from resuming flights,” Akporaiye said.

She hinted that travel agents have started issuing tickets for the Emirates flight of 1st of October to the United States, London, China and many other places.

Read also:Why Emirates retained all staff for 18 months despite flight suspension

“I have not issued any ticket to Dubai yet but some other people may have issued tickets to Dubai. It doesn’t have anything to do with visa ban or no visa ban. Visa ban does not stop Emirates from flying and would not make Emirates not have passengers because there are other places they go to beyond Dubai. The ban is on tourist visas not on any other type of visa. We are already selling tickets,” she added.

Festus Keyamo, minister of aviation and aerospace development had however disclosed that the visa ban on Nigerians has been resolved and an announcement will be made regarding that soon.

However, this is not the first time the federal government is announcing a lift on the visa ban.

On March 5, the presidency shared a document announcing the restriction has been lifted, however, Bayo Onanuga, special adviser on information and strategy to President Bola Tinubu, clarified the document was not authorised by the Nigerian and UAE governments.

Similarly, on September 11, the federal government also claimed UAE had lifted its visa ban imposed on Nigerian travellers but up till date, the visa ban still stays.

Kingsley Nwokoma, President Association of Foreign Airlines Representatives in Nigeria told BusinessDay that Emirates , a lot of Nigerians go to Dubai for commerce including market women and these people still find their way to Dubai.

“The UAE is like a go-between. Passengers flying to Asia get to Dubai first. It is easier and cheaper to get into UAE than go all the way to China, Malaysia, Singapore and the rest of the Asian countries.

“The visa ban will come and go. Emirates has lots of destinations and their big sale was the Asian countries because most people that go to Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, etc fly mostly with Emirates. The visa ban is just for tourists. We still have skilled workers going to Dubai. We still have people going for medicals and conferences,” Nwokoma said.

He said he is aware UAE is working on lifting the ban but when the ban is lifted, the UAE will make the visa issuance more stringent for Nigerians applying for tourist visas.

Bankole Bernard, chairman of Airlines and Passengers’ Joint Committee (APJC) of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) had earlier said it is not because of the trapped Emirates Airlines fund that UAE chose to maintain the current diplomatic status with Nigeria, but because the conduct of many Nigerians who travelled to the country was not in tune with peaceful and crime free standards it wants to maintain, recalling that Venezuela owes Emirates and there is no diplomatic impasse between the two countries.

“In the life of a country, there are always changes. A country may design a purpose in its foreign relations and adopt ways to implement it and achieve its desired objectives. Earlier everything in Dubai was cheap.

“They wanted to show the world what they have because the country wanted to showcase itself as a leading tourism destination. They do not want crime. They do not want violence; but Nigerians abused these two things. We have taken crime and violence there. You must have watched a video, which showed Nigerians in a cult clash, brandishing machetes. You must have seen them attacking a store.

“In as much as the UAE wants more people to come to her country, it must scrutinize the people they allow into their country. This is the new diplomatic message. What Nigerians exhibited then was gross indiscipline. UAE will continue to keep its current stance until we show some levels of commitment,” he said.