Aviation

November 16, 2023

Saudi Visa: We want good diplomacy, justice, fairness to prevail, as FG probes  –  Air Peace

Air Peace

The chairman of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema has asked for good diplomacy, justice and fairness to prevail, as the Federal Government investigates the cancellation of visas of 264 passengers airlifted by the company from Nigeria on the grounds of incorrect information in Saudi Arabia.

Onyema stated this in an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Thursday.

“The airline (Air Peace) followed every procedure required to be followed. We did that. When we got there, some of the people passed, but suddenly, immigration said they saw some issues in their systems and that the visas of some of the passengers were cancelled. That all we know.   

“I want good decorum, good diplomacy. Let good sense prevail in all these. Let justice and fairness to prevail in all these. That is all we are asking for, we don’t want to dwell too much on it, because the Federal Government is still investigating,” he added.

Recall that Saudi Arabia had revoked the visas of all 264 passengers who arrived in Jeddah on Monday via Air Peace, Nigeria’s prominent carrier.

The flight took off from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, via the Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, on Sunday night and arrived in Saudi Arabia’s major city on Monday without issues.

Even with the Advanced Passenger Prescreening System clearance during check-in, Saudi authorities insisted on the immediate return of the passengers to Nigeria.

The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia defended the visa cancellation, saying the passengers did not meet the Arab nation’s rules and regulations.

However, Air Peace, in a statement published on the company’s X (formerly Twitter) and signed by the airline’s chief operating officer, Oluwatoyin Olajide, said that the visa cancellation was not the fault of the company.

According to Air Peace, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided a visa confirmation platform that was used to verify the passengers’ visas before they were allowed to check in for the flight.

The statement read, “The visas of all passengers on the said flight to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia were checked and verified through the requisite procedures and were vetted to be valid before departure,” Air Peace said.

“The visas were verified using the visa confirmation platform provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saudi Arabia which confirmed the validity of each passenger visa before passengers were allowed to check-in for the flight.

“All the visas of the 264 passengers were duly verified, confirmed, and accepted as authentic for the trip through the visa portal provided by the Saudi Arabia authorities, if not, no passengers would have been able to depart from Nigeria.

“This is just one of two steps required before a passenger is accepted on the flight to Saudi Arabia. The next step is the use of the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS). We equally used this system to determine the admissibility or otherwise of each passenger on that flight.”

Air Peace stated that the names of the passengers were sent to Saudi Arabia’s national travel security center before the company’s flight took off from Nigeria.

“The APIS was live between Air Peace’s reservation system and the Saudi Arabia National Travel Security Center carrier portal to transmit passenger details prior to departure, to the Saudi authorities in order to further determine the admissibility or otherwise of the passengers,” the airline said.

“No Notice of Cancellation or any form of denial from the Saudi authorities was received against any of these passengers despite the live transmission of their details.

“Furthermore, the Passenger manifest containing the names of all passengers on board the flight was sent ahead to the Saudi Arabia National Travel Security Center carrier portal before the flight departure, yet no Notice of Visa Cancellation was received against any of these passengers.”

“While we empathize with the affected passengers for this development and assure them of our full compliance with the provisions guiding international travels, we wish to state that up till this moment, the Saudi Arabian authorities have not provided any explanation for the sudden and unexpected cancellation of the visas,” the airline noted.