Reveling under the ‘Open Skies’ pact between Nigeria and the United States, US mega carrier, United Airlines, may have concluded plans to return to Nigeria nearly five years after it ceased direct flights from Houston Texas to Lagos.
Despite the slow recovery of air transport market battered by the emergence of COVID-19, United Airlines has not backed-down on its ambition to commence the only Washington-Lagos flight in 2021 Spring.
Not setting a definite date, the airline had earlier said: “The new route is subject to government approval and tickets will be available for purchase on united.com and the United app in the coming weeks.”
According to a source from the carrier, who is aware of the development, “United is looking forward to offering the only nonstop service between Lagos and Washington, D.C.
with a new, three-times weekly service. United will announce a start date and inform travellers when our flights will be available for purchase in the coming weeks.”
On September 9, 2020. United Airlines disclosed intended operations to two West African countries (Nigeria and Ghana).
The carrier then said: “United will become the only U.S. carrier serving Accra nonstop from Washington, D.C. and the only airline to serve Lagos nonstop from Washington, D.C., with three weekly flights to each destination beginning in late spring 2021.
“The Washington metropolitan area has the secondlargest population of Ghanaians in the United States, and Lagos is the largest Western African destination from the United States.
Now, with 65 different U.S. cities connecting through Washington Dulles, United will offer convenient one-stop connections to Western Africa.” “We are excited to announce our return to Nigeria.
This new nonstop service will strengthen our international route network and provide our customers from Nigeria with direct access to the United States and the possibility to connect via our Washington Dulles hub to destinations across the Americas,” said Marcel Fuchs, United’s Managing Director International Sales during the announcement in 2020.
“Connecting Lagos to the U.S. will open up new opportunities for both business and leisure travellers and help our customers in Nigeria reconnect with friends and family around the world.” “United’s new service from Lagos to Washington Dulles will be operated with Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft.
The revolutionary design of the Dreamliner offers customers many features for increased comfort such as large windows, spacious overhead storage and modern LED lighting to simulate a full day, helping passengers adjust their internal clock on the trans-Atlantic flight. In addition, a lower cabin altitude, cleaner air and smoother ride help customers feel rested on arrival,” he added.
The commercial carrier was operating Lagos to Houston prior to the 2016 economic depression amid foreign airlines’ N120 billion stuck in Nigeria. United’s exit left Delta as the only U.S. carrier that continued to offer nonstop service between Atlanta and Africa.
In a memo to employees, United cited poor financial performance and weakness in the energy sector for ending the route.
Both Houston and Lagos were key centers for the oil and energy markets.
According to the airline in a statement to quit the route in 2016, “after careful analysis, we have decided to exit the IAH-LOS (Houston Bush Intercontinental-Lagos) route and redeploy the Boeing 787 aircraft where it can capture more profitable demand,”
United said in its Wednesday memo. “Our last flights will be June 29 (eastbound) and June 30 (westbound); after that, customers can travel to LOS via our Star Alliance partners.
“The IAH-LOS route has been underperforming financially for several years. Because of its importance to key Houston-based customers, we continued to invest in it; however, the recent downturn in the energy sector has caused these customers to spend less on travel.”
Nigeria and the United State had on August 26, 2000 concluded an “Open Skies Agreement” that will expand and enhance the overall aviation partnership between the two countries.
The agreement was signed by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, and Nigerian former Transport Minister, Kema Chikwe.