Nigeria’s Arik Air has suspended its daily flights to Johannesburg after 125 Nigerians were refused entry into South Africa over a dispute with airport health authorities, it said on Saturday.
Arik decided to suspend flights between Lagos and Johannesburg, the two financial hubs, due to a dispute with health authorities over yellow fever vaccination documents presented at OR Tambo International Airport by passengers, it said in a statement.
Arik, the only Nigeria-owned airline on the lucrative Lagos-Johannesburg route, said that 50 passengers were refused entry on Friday while ThisDay newspaper said that 75 other Nigerian passengers on South Africa Airways were also turned back.
“Many passengers have been detained and refused entry in recent months,” the airline said in a statement.
It said health authorities gave the reason as incorrect or unrecognised batch numbers on the documentation which is mandatory proof before entry.
Hundreds of Nigerian and West African passengers travelling from the region are being refused entry into South Africa, the airline alleged.
Arik described the protocol as “irregular and obfuscating” and said it was not prepared to continue operations into a country where customers were at risk of detention or “any other measures meted out arbitrarily by the authorities.”
The airline’s chief executive, Michael Arumemi-Ikhide, said that the protocol was “haphazard” and “discriminatory to many of our passengers,” according to the statement.
Arik began once-daily flights to South Africa in June 2009.