Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, has opened up on the cancellation of Air Peace flight billed to evacuate Nigerians stranded in the United Kingdom (UK).
The flight which was earlier billed to depart London Heathrow on July 13, 2020, it would be recalled, was rescheduled to depart Gatwick Airport on July 14, 2020, over landing clearance issues, according to the Nigerian High Commission, London.
The Nigerian High Commission, London, also disclosed in a statement that Air Peace Airlines contracted Air Partner to operate the flight on its behalf.
Speaking about the development, Onyeama, on his Twitter handle, @GeoffreyOnyeama, said: “Having been allowed to carry out one very successful evacuation of Nigerians from London at very low fares, @flyairpeace in coordination with the @NigeriaGov and full knowledge of the UK authorities scheduled two additional flights.
“All the arrangements were made, including payments, only for the UK authorities to withdraw landing rights close to departure despite strong representations by the Nigerian Government, including pointing out the hardship that would cause to hundreds of Nigerian evacuees.”
The minister further said Air Peace could have just refunded the passengers, but exceptionally, patriotically and altruistically agreed to find an alternative carrier acceptable to the UK authorities to carry out the evacuation a day later than scheduled, but for much higher fares.
Onyeama also said the higher fares could legitimately have been passed on to the evacuees, but Air Peace bore the huge cost itself.
“This is to let the aggrieved evacuees know that the objects of their grievance should neither be Air Peace nor the Nigerian Government.
“They should rather be eternally grateful to Air Peace. The Nigerian Government will review its Air agreements with various countries as a result of the unacceptable treatment of Nigerian carriers during this pandemic,” Onyeama also said.