National flag carrier, Air Nigeria has announced plans to return to the long-haul routes from which it had suspended operations since January 27, 2009.
The Managing Director of the airline, Mr. Kinfe Kahssaye who made the announcement at a news conference in Lagos said the airline would commence the Lagos-London route on May 16, 2012, while the O.R. Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, South Africa route would commence the following day, May 17, 2012.
Kahssaye explained that Air Nigeria would deploy a modern Airbus A330-200 wide bodied aircraft on the routes.
He stated further that unlike in the past, when the airline was flying the two routes daily, the management had decided to fly the routes thrice a week, adding that after a month, the airline would commence daily flights on both routes.
Kahssaye also announced that the airline would commence direct three weekly flights from Lagos to Rome/Paris in June and expressed confidence that the route would be profitable.
He emphasised that the turnaround strategic plan initiated by the company’s Chairman, Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim, OFR, in April 2010 had been successful with the increase in the airline’s revenues in 2011, which grew by 60 per cent compared to 2009 when it was on the brink of collapse.
He lamented that Air Nigeria, which was established in 2005 with $50m start up cost as Virgin Nigeria, lost more than $373m between the period and February 2010 before its acquisition by Ibrahim.
He said that the recommencement of the long-haul flights marked a historic moment for Nigerian aviation as passengers now have array of choices and more than ever, can conveniently connect onwards to London and Johannesburg and points beyond.
He said: “Johannesburg and London markets are the two biggest markets in Nigeria. Today, we have Arik Air, South African Airways, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic on these routes. But the fact is that the capacities on these routes are limited and there is a massive demand on these routes. Air Nigeria will contribute its own quota to the development of these routes with strategies that will further enhance patronage by the passengers.
“We have very good products on these routes. For instance, the aircraft we will be using is a two engine aircraft with fuel efficiency, and good cargo capacity. The aircraft will give us the edge to penetrate the market and after one year, when the market would have grown bigger, we would require a bigger aircraft for the markets.
“Besides, our recommencement of the longhaul flights confirms Air Nigeria’s commitment to boost business and tourism travels through regular growth and innovation that will meet the aspirations of the travelling public. Passengers will have distinctive onboard experience on the flights as indigenous meals and variety of movies will be offered as the airline is committed to delivering quality services at an affordable price.”