Nigerian airlines, particularly Air Peace, are facing significant challenges in international aeropolitics, as highlighted by recent incidents involving visa cancellations and diplomatic disputes. Experts in the aviation sector have weighed in on these issues, providing insights into the complexities facing Nigerian carriers on the global stage.
Incident with Saudi Arabia
Recently, the Saudi government cancelled visas for 177 out of 264 Nigerian passengers flying with Air Peace to Jeddah. The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Abuja later clarified that the cancellation was due to the passengers not fulfilling entry conditions, a claim which Air Peace refutes.
Air Peace’s Response
Air Peace’s COO, Toyin Olajide, disputed the Saudi government’s explanation, asserting that the airline rigorously follows international flight operation protocols. She emphasized that the flight to Jeddah was a scheduled service, and all passengers’ visas were verified as valid through the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ visa confirmation platform.
Experts’ Verdict on Aeropolitics
Aviation expert Amos Akpan suggested that the Saudi government’s reason for cancelling the visas was untenable, and reciprocity would not be an effective response due to the imbalance in travel patterns between Nigeria and countries like Saudi Arabia. He stressed that Nigerian travelers would bear the brunt of such a response in terms of higher fares and limited travel options.
Akpan also highlighted similar issues faced by Air Peace with other countries, including the UAE, UK, and South Africa, describing these as examples of aeropolitics. He called for government support for domestic airlines and the negotiation of more favorable bilateral air service agreements (BASA).
Recommendations for Government and Airlines
Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), an aviation security expert, advised the Federal Government to designate two Nigerian airlines as flag carriers for better leverage in BASA negotiations. He also recommended that airlines like Air Peace should utilize advanced passenger information systems (APIS) for passenger profiling to prevent similar incidents.
The challenges faced by Nigerian airlines in international aeropolitics highlight the need for strategic government support and more robust diplomatic engagement. Experts advocate for a more proactive approach in supporting Nigerian carriers and ensuring fair treatment in the global aviation sector.