BY KENNETH EHIGIATOR & DANIEL ETEGHE
LAGOS—Air Nigeria yesterday announced plans to commence flight operations to Gatwick Airport in London on May 16, 2012, and Johannesburg, South Africa the following day.
Chief Executive Officer of the airline, Mr. Kinfe Kahssaye, who disclosed this at a briefing in Lagos, said Airbus A330-200 aircraft would be deployed for both operations, with class configurations of 24 Business Class and 244 Economy Class seats.
He said Air Nigeria would operate three weekly flights to both London and Johannesburg, stressing that it would make fares competitive for Nigerians.
He said the flight to the South terminal of Gatwick Airport would enable Nigerians have easy connections to North of England, the South Coast, other parts of Europe and North America.
Kahssaye said: “After the successful turn-around of the airline over the last two years, the airline is now well positioned to compete favourably on the international market. There is a huge market on the London route, we have done a research on that route and found that the market is good.
“Gatwick is also good and as you know, it is privatised. It has over about 740 million passing through it every year, so we have a strategy on the route. We are going to give our passengers qualitative product with Nigerian taste. Our fares will be competitive and our prime market will be for Nigerian people.”
According to him, the re-commencement of long haul flights confirmed the airline’s commitment to boost business and tourism travels through regular growth and innovation that will meet the aspirations of the travelling public.
Kahssaye, who noted that sales of tickets had begun across the country, assured the travelling public of the best in-flight entertainment, adding that aircraft deployed for the operations were equipped with state-of-the-art IPADs. He also said local Nigerian meals would be served on board for the benefit of passengers who crave same.
He called on the federal government to support Nigerian carriers to enable them compete favourably with the foreign carriers, with a view to considerably crashing fares on all routes for Nigerians.
Kahssaye also announced the appointment of former Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Mr. Richard Aisuebeogun, as Air Nigeria’s Executive Director of International Operations.
He said the airline hoped to use Aisuebeogun’s wealth of experience to drive its international operations. Air Nigeria now becomes the second Nigerian airline, after Arik Air, to take advantage of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement, BASAs, between Nigeria and the UK and South Africa respectively.