Nigeria passengers heading to the United States will soon have several direct destination options by the year’s end as more US airlines are entering the market and the locally owned Arik Air also plans to add new destinations to New York, Empowered Newswire reported yesterday. A statement from the Arik Air US office disclosed that at the completion of Arik Air's International Air Transportation Association (IATA) membership, which is said to be close to completion, the Nigerian airline will start "adding other US connections, especially those in key oil and gas centers such as Houston," in the US State of Texas.
Besides Arik Air, Delta Airlines currently also offers a direct flight from Nigeria to the US, where it lands in New York. Delta goes to Atlanta. Last week also, the Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Prof. Ade Adebowale, said that Continental Airlines, under its ongoing partnership process with United Airlines, another major US airline, will next month add another direct flight from US to Nigeria. The route will be Washington DC to Lagos. Currently, Continental-United travels to Lagos via Accra Ghana, from Washington DC.
Early in the summer, Continental had experimented with a Houston-Lagos flight, but that is now over. Commenting on Arik Air's IATA's application, IATA's Spokesperson Martine Ohayon said the Nigerian airline has successfully concluded the Operational Safety Audit (IOSA). The program, she explained, is a pre-condition for IATA membership. Confirming that Arik Air earlier this year commenced its IATA application for membership, the spokesperson, who is based in IATA's head office in Montreal, Canada, added that IOSA “is an internationally recognized and accepted evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline." In a similar development, US aircraft maker Boeing and Nigeria’s Arik Air have announced a deal in which Arik will buy two 747-8 Intercontinental airplanes from the US firm. According to a press statement issued by Boeing obtained yesterday, the order is valued at $635 million.
The order was signed last week at the Corporate Council for Africa’s 8th Biennial U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Washington, D.C. Quoted in the press release, Sir JIA Arumemi-Johnson, owner and chairman of Arik Air, said “Air travel within the region continues to grow at a rapid pace and we must prepare our fleet to accommodate that growth,” adding that “Boeing’s new 747-8 fits perfectly into our long-term planning. It brings the best operating economics for its size, which is important with the increase in fuel prices.” Arik Air is regarded now as Nigeria's fastest-growing privately owned airline. It operates a comparatively large fleet of Boeing Next-Generation 737s, and serves more than 22 domestic, six regional, and three long-haul routes. The airline plans to use the 747-8 on its key long-haul routes, the statement said.
At the summit, the African Export-Import Bank expressed interest in helping Arik Air finance the two 747-8 Intercontinental airplanes to help Arik Air realize their vision for the future of the airline. Also Boeing's Vice President of Sales for Africa, Latin America, and Caribbean, noted that "Arik Air is growing to become a leader in aviation in Africa and Boeing is happy it will use the 747-8 as a cornerstone of their future growth.” The new 747-8 Intercontinental features a new wing design and an upgraded flight deck. The airplane interior incorporates features from the 787 Dreamliner including a new curved, upswept architecture that is expected to give passengers a greater sense of space and comfort.
Passengers are hoping that along with increasing its fleet and flights, Arik Air will also improve its customer service and management practices. Only last July, Senegalese authorities impounded one of its aircraft allegedly because the company had failed to pay landing fees for up to two years.
Following that development, Arik left its Nigeria-bound passengers stranded at the Dakar airport, and some of the passengers told SaharaReporters that Arik officials had neither explained the situation to them, nor apologized, nor provided them with alternative means of leaving Dakar.
Prior to that, Arik had also lost another aircraft in South Africa because it had failed to meet the loan terms on its aircraft lease. In Nigeria, it owed civil aviation authorities about N2 billion in unpaid fees.