Officials of the Federal Ministry of Aviation on Thursday said they were not aware of any recent increase in the frequency of flights for Emirates from Nigeria to United Arab Emirates.
According to the ministry, the Federal Government has yet to assign a minister to head the ministry, adding that issues that have to do with increase in flight frequencies will require the attention of a minister.
“It is important to note that issues like this are often handled by the minister. We cannot just increase the frequency of an airline like that. Right now, you and I know that the President has not assigned a minister to this ministry yet,” a senior official told one of our correspondents in confidence.
When contacted, the Deputy Director, Press and Public Affairs, Aviation Ministry, James Odaudu, stated that the airline in question had explained that the change in its frequency was strictly for Hajj operations.
“The airline has said that the frequency changes for its flights were for Hajj operations and I think that explains it better,” Odaudu stated.
The General Manager, Public Relations, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Mr Sam Adurogboye, described the designation of routes and frequencies as a policy issue handled by the Federal Government through the aviation ministry.
According to him, the NCAA only offers advisory and regulatory oversight.
Emirates said the recently added flights were not permanent and would end before the end of August.
The airline stated that the additional flights from Nigeria were part of an expansion of its services to Jeddah and Medina with 46 flights to help facilitate travel for Hajj pilgrims.
“The flights will be operated between 27 July and 22 August to support the Hajj journey to the Holy City of Mecca. The services will run in parallel with Emirates’ regularly scheduled services to Jeddah and Medina, and will be available to travellers holding a valid Hajj visa,” the airline said.
It added that the services for Hajj included destinations such as Pakistan, the United States, Senegal, the UK, Nigeria, Indonesia, South Africa and Ivory Coast.
The Emirates’ Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations, Gulf, Middle East and Iran, Adil Al Ghaith, said in a statement made available to The PUNCH that over 25,000 pilgrims were expected to travel with Emirates this year.
“With the significant demand for air travel during this period, Emirates is deploying extra flights to ensure more seamless connections for the scores of pilgrims making their way to the Mecca,” he said.