Nigeria investigates visa cancellation incident by Saudi authorities affecting 264 Jeddah-bound Airpeace Airline passengers.
A Nigerian Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Al-Kasim Abdulkadir, said the ministry is carrying out an internal probe to determine if passengers breached consular or aviation rules
Airpeace Airline, Nigeria’s biggest carrier, lifted the 264 passengers from Lagos and Kano airports on Sunday, 12 November 2023.
Al-Kasim confirmed that passengers went through the advanced passengers information system (APIS) during their check-in formalities in Nigeria.
Saudi authorities equally monitored the process, he said.
The authorities threatened to return all 264 passengers to Nigeria. However, the intervention of Nigerian embassy officials in Jeddah persuaded the Saudi authorities to allow in only 87 passengers.
Consequently, the remaining 177 passengers were denied entry and ordered to return to Nigeria, Al-Kasim said.
A lucrative route
Air Peace began thrice weekly flights from Lagos and Kano to Jeddah in September 2023.
The route quickly became popular for local passengers who found it convenient and cost-effective to pay in local currency for a direct flight.
The Airpeace Jeddah flight operations introduced real competition for other airlines plying the route. Analysts fear that the Saudi action will make Airpeace less attractive to passengers.
Airpeace spokesperson, Stanley Olisa, told the Punch newspaper that the visa cancellations came to the carrier as a shock.
“It is shocking. 264 passengers were flown and everything was fine from here (Nigeria). The system checked them and everything was approved. But upon arrival in Saudi, their (passengers’) visas were canceled.
“Despite the intervention of the Nigerian embassy over there, the visas of 177 Nigerians were canceled. So out of the 264 passengers, the visas of 177 people were canceled.” Olisa stated.
Olisa also said the Saudi authorities offered no explanations for the action.
“It was shocking and there was nothing in the form of explanation for that action. So, we cannot say the actual reason for that decision.”
The airline yesterday flew the rejected 177 passengers back to Nigeria.
Slug: Nigeria investigates Airpeace passengers’ incident in Saudi