Despite a smooth journey from Lagos, via Kano, the passengers faced visa cancellations upon landing. The airline, perplexed by the sudden decision, is considering whether this is a measure to discourage its operations, especially given its consistently high load factors.
The Advanced Passengers Prescreening System (APPS) was utilized during checks in Nigeria and monitored by Saudi authorities. The Nigerian embassy's intervention prompted a reduction in the number of passengers set to return, from 264 to 170.
According to the source, “The airline was exonerated in all this as the 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. They are on their way to Nigeria now.”
The recent visa cancellations for 264 Air Peace passengers by Saudi Arabia have raised concerns among stakeholders In the aviation sector, who attribute the move to aero politics.
Some believe this is a strategic attempt to push the Nigerian operator out of the route, highlighting the need for government intervention and adherence to reciprocity principles.
According to industry experts and Group Captain John Ojikutu, CEO of Centurion Aviation Security and Safety Consult, this action by Saudi Arabia reflects aeropolitics and diplomacy.
Ojikutu urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promptly intervene in the matter, stating the importance of the Nigerian government supporting designated carriers for international operations.
“The action of the Saudi Authorities is shocking. There is geopolitics 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.