28 May 2016, Lagos — United States carrier, United Airlines, will stop flying to Nigeria from June 2016 ending operations on its only African route because of weakness in the energy sector and difficulties in repatriating money from tickets sold in the country.
This came barely six weeks after Spain’s national carrier, Iberia Plc, stopped flights to Nigeria, citing dwindling passenger traffic as the reason.
United Airlines said in a note to employees that the daily route from Houston to Lagos had underachieved for years but was kept alive because of its importance to Texas-based customers.
The last flight will be on June 30, 2016, after which Delta Air Lines will be the only major US carrier flying to Africa.
The Central Bank of Nigeria’s foreign exchange policy has restricted the movement of foreign currencies abroad after the global slump in oil prices depleted the country’s foreign reserves.
Highlighting the reason for the US carrier’s exit from Nigeria, United Airlines’ spokesman, Jonathan Guerin, told Bloomberg, “Repatriation has been a significant issue, as has been the downturn in the energy sector.”
The International Air Transport Association said that funds belonging to foreign airlines, which had been trapped in the country due to the Federal Government’s policy on foreign exchange, stood at $575m (N113.28bn) as of March this year.
The association, which represents over 260 airlines attending to 83 percent of the global air traffic, made the disclosure at the IATA African Aviation Day programme in Abuja.