Saudi Arabia has cancelled the visa of all the 264 passengers airlifted by Nigeria’s major carrier, Air Peace on arrival in Jeddah from Kano on Monday and insisted that the airline should return them back to Nigeria.
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 but on landing, the Saudi Arabia authorities announced that all the passengers’ visas were cancelled.
A source who is familiar with the matter said that all the passengers and the airline personnel were shocked at the cancellation of the visas because, during check-in, the passengers went through the Advanced Passengers Prescreening System (APPS), which was also monitored by the Saudi Arabia authorities before the flight left Nigeria.
The source wondered whether what happened was a strategy to discourage the airline from operating to the destination because since it started the operation, it has been recording high load factor and even the flight expected to leave on Tuesday to Jeddah was already fully booked.
When the Nigerian embassy waded in Saudi authorities were said to have reduced the number of passengers that would be returned to 177 from 264.
Saudi Air has been operating directly from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia and since Air Peace started flight service to the Middle East nation at relatively lower fares, it has been receiving high patronage and as a Nigerian carrier, it helps to conserve foreign exchange for the country.
A source from the Nigerian embassy in Jeddah said that even the Saudi immigration personnel said that they didn’t know who cancelled the visas but that they were cancelled when the airline was already airborne to Jeddah.
The source said, “The airline was exonerated in all this as the Advanced Passenger Prescreening System(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.”