By Kenneth Ehigiator
LAGOSâ€”For the second time in a year, Virgin Nigeria Airways has changed its name, this time to Air Nigeria.
The airline started off as Virgin, then to Nigerian Eagle Airlines, following the withdrawal of Virgin Atlantic Airways, its core investor and technical partner, and now to Air Nigeria, with the takeover of the airline by the Nicon Group, chaired by Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim.
At a briefing in Lagos, yesterday, Chairman of the airline, Ibrahim, said the new name, registered under the entity of Air Nigeria Development Limited, had already been approved by the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC and marked with certificate number RC 501975.
According to him, the renaming was done with a view to reflecting the integrity of Nigeriaâ€™s culture.
â€œThe name change was effected sequel to Board resolution on 14 May 2010.Â The change became necessary to make the airline fully indigenous,â€ he said.
Ibrahim added that the first branded aircraft in the new name would arrive from France before the end of next week, adding that the re-branding of the airline from Virgin to Air Nigeria would be completed soon.
He said the airline was in serious process of regeneration, and noted that by 1 October, it would have re-fleeted to 10 aircraft.
Ibrahim added that the airline currently has seven aircraft, from one operational plane, when the Nicon Group took over about two months ago.
He said while 50 per centÂ of the airlineâ€™s fleet would be on outright purchase, the remaining 50 per centÂ would be acquired on lease.
Allaying fears of sack in the restructuring of the airline, Ibrahim said: â€œAs we increase the number of air fleet, job security is guaranteed as more people will be required to run the airline.â€
He reiterated the airlineâ€™s commitment to turn round itself within the shortest time, stressing that its daily income at the time of takeover by the Nicon Group hovered inconsistently between N7 and N10 million, but that at present, it was now consistently N28 million monthly.
Ibrahim said the current focus of the turn around of the airline was to address its financial distress before beaming the searchlight on human resources engineering.
He said there was no need to tinker with the airlineâ€™s technical department as structured by Virgin Atlantic Airlines, describing it as first class.
Ibrahim, who noted that aircraft lessors were now keen to do business with the airline, also dropped hints of plans to increase the airlineâ€™s fleet to 17 by February next year, stressing that the essence was to consolidate its regional operations and return to inter-continental operations.