Home BUSINESS AVIATION Saudi Arabia Turns Back 177 Nigerian Passengers At Jeddah Airport, Cancels Their...

Saudi Arabia Turns Back 177 Nigerian Passengers At Jeddah Airport, Cancels Their Visas

The Saudi Arabian authorities have returned 177 out of a total of 264 passengers airlifted by Nigeria’s Air Peace on arrival in Jeddah from Kano, after cancelling their visas without advancing any reason.
Information reaching us at Greenbarge Reporters online newspaper however said that out of the 264 passengers, only 87 were cleared by Saudi Arabian authorities after intense intervention by Nigerian embassy officials.
The flight took off from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos through the Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano on yesterday night, November 12, and arrived in Saudi Arabia’s major city on today without issues but on landing, Saudi Arabian authorities announced that all passengers’ visas were cancelled.
A source said that all passengers and the airline personnel were shocked at the cancellation of the visas because during the check-in, passengers went through the Advanced Passengers Pre-screening System (APPS), which was also monitored by the Saudi Arabian authorities before the flight left and departed Nigeria.
The source wondered whether what happened was a strategy to discourage the airline from operating to the destination because since it started the operation, it has been recording high load factors.
He said that even the flight  which is expected to leave tomorrow , November 14, to Jeddah was already fully booked.
When the Nigerian embassy waded in, Saudi authorities were said to have reduced the number of passengers that would be returned to Nigeria to 177 from 264.
Saudi Air has been operating directly from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia and since Air Peace started flight service to the Middle East nation at relatively lower fares, it has been receiving high patronage and as a Nigerian carrier, it helps to conserve foreign exchange for the country.
A source from the Nigerian embassy in Jeddah said that even the Saudi immigration personnel said they didn’t know who cancelled the visas but that they were cancelled when the airline was already airborne to Jeddah.
The source said: “The airline was exonerated in all this as the Advanced Passenger Pre-screening System (APPS) which is live between both countries would have screened out any invalid visa and its passenger. The system accepted all affected passengers and passed them on.”
Those deported were 177 passengers and Air Peace has already left with them back to Nigeria.
The source said: “They are on their way to Nigeria now.”
Industry observers attributed this to aeropolitics, saying that it is a way to force the Nigerian operator out of the route; unless the government intervenes, adopting the principle of reciprocity.
In his reaction to the incident, industry expert and the Chief Executive Officer of Centurion Aviation Security and Safety Consult, Nigeria, Group Captain John Ojikutu attributed the action of the Saudis to aero politics and diplomacy and asked that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should intervene in the case step in immediately.
He said that what happened showed why it is important for the Nigerian government to stand strongly with any Nigerian carrier designated to operate international destinations.
Ojikutu said that Nigeria should designate Nigerian airlines approved to operate out of the country as flag carriers, noting that the United States has no national carrier but all the airlines are supported by the government and are designated as flag carriers.
“The action of the Saudi Authorities is shocking. There is aero politics there and there is also diplomacy. There is the need for the Nigerian government to stand firmly with Nigerian carriers and also designate them as flag carriers; so that other countries will know that they represent Nigeria.
“Government must come out and intervene. The government must be behind Air Peace now to ensure that it is not denied its rights as contained in the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) between the two countries. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must not keep quiet. Nigeria must not keep quiet. Ideally, the government is expected to stand behind any of the country’s airlines that it designates to fly overseas.”

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Source: The Eagle online.

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