Nigeria’s flag carrier Virgin Nigeria has won the approval of the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to commence direct commercial flights from Lagos to various destinations in the US, the private Guardian newspaper reported Sunday.
It said the approval, signed by the Director, Office of International Aviation in the DOT, Mr. Paul Gretch, authorises the Nigerian airline to use aircraft wet-leased from a duly authorised and properly supervised US or foreign air carrier.
The reported quoted Virgin Nigeria’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Conrad Clifford, as describing the approval as a boost for the Nigerian aviation industry.
Two other Nigerian airlines, Arik and Bellview, which have been designated to fly the US route under the ‘open skies’ agreement signed between Nigeria and the US, have yet to secure DOT’s approval.
Two American airlines – Delta and North American – are currently flying the lucrative route, but North American is expected to cease its operations soon due to what some analysts called ”operational difficulties”.
Virgin Nigeria, owned 51% by Nigerian institutional investors and 49% by Virgin Atlantic, came into being following an agreement signed between the Nigerian government and Virgin Atlantic in September 2004.
It launched its operations 28 June 2005 with its maiden international flight from Lagos to London Heathrow.
The airline, which is based in Nigeria’s economic capital city of Lagos, replaces the defunct national airline – Nigeria Airways – and operates scheduled international, regional and domestic passenger services. Panapress.