In what is capable of causing diplomatic row, Saudi Arabian authorities cancelled the visas of all the 264 passengers airlifted to Jeddah from Lagos and Kano on Sunday by Air Peace.
The Nigerian owned Air Peace penultimate week launched a direct flight to Jeddah, which has been recording high load factor.
The Saudi authorities insisted that the airline should return them back to Nigeria.
The flight took off from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos via the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano on Sunday night and landed at King Abdul-Aziz International Airport, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
But to the consternation of the airline staff, the Saudi Arabian authorities announced that all the passengers’ visas had been cancelled.
This was despite the fact that the passengers went through the Advanced Passengers Information System (APIS) during the check-in formalities in Nigeria which was also monitored by the Saudi authorities.
A source who confirmed the development said, “The screening of passengers from the MMIA and Kano Airport was thorough and there was no issue with the visas. These were people who were duly issued the visa and they passed through the advanced passenger information system which is accessible to both authorities in Lagos and Jeddah. We are surprised because this cancellation was announced when the flight already landed.
“We are suspecting this is a strategy to frustrate the Nigerian carrier out of the route, some people are definitely not happy with the option Air Peace is providing, the direct flight to Jeddah as against using another foreign airline which attracts higher fares.”
It was learnt that, it was when the Nigerian embassy waded in that Saudi authorities reduced the number of passengers that would be returned to 177 from 264.
As of the time of filing this report, the Airline was on its way to Nigeria with the 177 passengers that were denied entry; majority of them going to perform lesser Hajj (Umrah).
The development comes at a time when President Bola Tinubu visited the country for a summit.
The Nigerian leader also proceeded for lesser Hajj at the end of the summit, where he met the high and mighty in the Arabic country.
According to Daily Trust, prior to the commencement of direct flight by Air Peace, Saudia, a Saudi Arabian flag carrier, has been operating directly from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia.