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September 23rd, 2008, 05:27 PM
The national flag-carrier, Virgin Nigeria Airways, is set to revolutionise domestic in-flight entertainment with the arrival of its first set of Embraer E-190 jets.
BusinessDay gathered last night in Lagos that the aircraft, 10 in all, will start arriving September 29, equipped with the state-of-the-art entertainment facilities reputed to be first of their kind in the country.
A source within the airline said: "The aircrafts are mini-entertainment centers providing passengers with movies on the domestic route. They are also more fuel efficient than the Boeing (B737) we are currently using."
According to the source, the Embraer E-190 jets will enable the airline save up to 40 percent on fuel cost.
While one of the 10 aircrafts will arrive to commence immediate flight operations on September 29, five others are expecxted in October while the remaining four will arrive in February next year.
The aircraft type which was first introduced into the market in March 2004, manufacturted by Brazil Aviation Industry, has only 410 in service as at June 30, this year.
It was learnt that the airliners which unit cost varies between $27.4 million and $34.9 million as at 2006 would replace the Boeing 737 planes currently used by Virgin Nigeria on the regional and domestic routes.
Virgin Nigeria currently operates seven domestic routes out of Lagos and six regional routes using about five Boeing 737 planes.
Embraer E-jets, narrow bodied aircrafts, are composed of two main commercial families and a business jet variant. An E-190/195 plane has 106 passenger seats
The smaller E-170 and E-175 make up the base model aircraft, with the E-190 and E-195 being the stretched versions with different engines and larger wing and landing gear structures.
The E-190/195 series of aircraft have similar capacities to the initial versions of the DC-9 and Boeing 737 planes, which have always been considered mainline airliners. Embraer E-jets use four-abreast seating.
Virgin Nigeria also operates internatiomnal flights into the United Kingdom and South Africa and plans to operate into the United States before the end of the year.
The airline was formed in 2004 by Nigerian institutional investors who own 51 percent of the airline’s equity and Virgin Group founded by British billionaire, Richard Branson, holding 49 percent equity.
The airline which begun operations in 2005 was formed to provide flight services on the domestic, regional, continental and intercontinental routes which were abandoned after the liquidation of the defunct Nigeria Airways.
September 29th, 2008, 10:10 AM
Virgin Nigeria Takes Delivery of First Embraer Aircraft
By Chinedu Eze, 09.29.2008
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Embraer has delivered the first Ebmbraer 190 jet to Virgin Nigeria, one of the nation’s major domestic carriers.
A statement from the airline said the aircraft had all leather elite seats, “comfortably seating 94 passengers in a dual-class configuration, and features a state-of-the-art aIn-Flight Entertainment (IFE) system, with individual TV screens in front of every seat.”
The Embraer 190 is the first E-Jet delivered to Virgin Nigeria, and will assist the airline’s growing domestic and regional network, by providing the right capacity for current routes. It will also be used to develop international markets, feeding the Lagos hub for its long-haul operations, the airline stated.
“Our commitment is to give customers more value for their money. We are proud to be the first carrier to introduce this technologically advanced aircraft in the African Sub-Saharan region. We believe the Embraer E-Jets will give us the edge over our competitors, enabling us to offer our clients superior standards and with the different sizes and high commonality to match seat capacity and frequency to passenger demand network-wide, without compromising operational efficiency," Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Nigeria, Conrad Clifford said.
Executive Vice President, Airline Market, Mauro Kern, said "it is both an honour to welcome a new Embraer 190 operator in Sub-Saharan Africa. We are happy to support Virgin Nigeria, one of the youngest and most energetic carriers in Africa, with the superior contribution of the E-Jets, as it unfolds its expansion plans into the Western and Central Areas of the continent."
As the aircraft begins service, passengers flying short-haul routes will have the opportunity to watch movies, as well as Nigerian and foreign programs, or select from a wide range of music channels.
It will be recalled that Virgin Nigeria in November 2007, at the Dubai Air Show, announced its orders for seven Embraer 170s and three Embraer 190s, all of which are Advanced Range versions, plus options for six Embraer 190s and purchase rights for another eight E-Jets, all worth over US$811million.
September 29th, 2008, 10:20 AM
Virgin Nigeria Suspends Plan to Fly US Routes
By Yemi Adebowale with agency reports, 09.27.2008
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Virgin Nigeria Airline (VNA) has suspended its plan to fly routes into the United States following what it attributed to the prohibitive price of aviation fuel.
In what many said was a big breakthrough for the open skies agreement between Nigeria and the United States, Virgin Nigeria, Bellview Airline and Arik Airline were in April this year granted approval by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) to commence direct commercial flights from Lagos to various destinations in the U.S.
While Bellview is expected to service Newark and New Jersey, Arik is expected to operate to Atlanta, Georgia.
“Fuel prices are too high now and we can’t go there until the prices become favourable,” the Chief Executive Officer of the airline, Mr Conrad Clifford said in Lagos.
Conrad said operating the U.S. routes under the “excruciating” fuel prices would not be in the interest of the airline, adding that it might consider flying the route late next year.
In May, Virgin Nigeria's desire to work with North American Airline on the U.S. route suffered a setback when the former pulled out of Nigeria due to rising fuel costs.
The high cost of aviation fuel has in the last couple of months hampered the operations of several airlines worldwide, especially in the US.
In reaction to the impact of high fueling costs, the African Airlines Association (AAA) is considering persuading African counties to embark on regional fuel projects to push down prices on the continent.
For now, Virgin Nigeria, Arik and Bellview Airlines, all of which are designated on the U.S. routes, are still struggling to commence operations, leaving many Nigerian travellers with no option but to fly with foreign carriers.
The rising cost of aviation fuel has continued to bite harder globally. Airlines in Nigeria now expend as much as N320 million on fuel weekly.
Consequently, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has for a while been seeking audience with President Umaru Yar'Adua with the hope of securing a lifeline “to prevent most of the carriers from closing shops.”
AON Chairman, Dr. Steve Mahonwu, said recently that unless the government did something urgent about the rising cost of fuel, there may be no domestic operations in the country in the next few months, as fuel now accounts for a huge chunk of operational costs relative to slim revenues.
He said airlines could not survive this for much longer, especially as they also have to pay several landing, parking and en route charges that arise out of operations.
Virgin Nigeria had in December 2005, filed an application with the US Department of Transport to provide scheduled passenger air transportation between the United States and Nigeria and vigorously pursued the process for two and half years, before getting the department’s nod in April.
Nigeria is yet to attain the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Category One status that will enable Nigerian- registered aircraft to fly into the U.S.
However, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted a waiver to the domestic airlines to lease aircraft from an American-recognised Category One country.
With the acquired aircraft, they were expected to start operations to the United States.
Clifford also announced that Virgin Nigeria was pushing for the allocation of space in Lagos to construct a hangar for its aircraft as it expects to receive deliveries of its orders for a fleet of new Embraer aircraft next week.
The airline recently signed an order for the purchase of 24 aircraft from Embraer, a Brazilian manufacturer. Ahead of the delivery, the airline has changed the outfit of its crew.
Over the next three years, the airline will be spending about N101.4 billion on the purchase of new aircraft from Embraer.
The firm said it intended to acquire 24 new aircraft, which would be in 10 orders to be supplied between September 2008 and 2011.
The order specifies seven Embraer 170 Advanced Range (AR) and three Embraer 190 AR aircraft.
In addition, there are options for six Embraer 190 AR and purchase rights for eight 190 and 195s.
September 30th, 2008, 01:59 AM
The price of jet fuel is killing people. The cost of some airfares between the US and Africa are up almost 50% from a couple years ago.
September 30th, 2008, 10:49 AM
Virgin Nigeria Suspends Plan to Fly US Routes This is why I never supported the agreement with Virgin Nigeria. My question is that why does the same not apply to Virgin Atlantic. :bash::bash:
October 15th, 2008, 04:39 AM
Virgin Nigeria to build aircraft hangar
By Wole Shadare
VIRGIN Nigeria said that it plans to build its own terminal building and associated structures as soon as possible considering its size of planned operations and given the enormous growth envisaged in the industry within the same period.
The carrier, however, stated that its board, shareholders and partners are committed to its plans and growth, coupled with the current policy thrust of the Federal Government, which it stated was driving the sector.
The Managing Director of the airline, Conrad Clifford expressed confidence that the airline would achieve its set goals and targets.
Speaking at the formal presentation of its first set of Embraer 190 aircraft on Tuesday in Abuja, Clifford said, "the brand new E-190 aircraft being presented was the first of our order of 24 aircraft that has been delivered on schedule by Embraer, the world's third largest aircraft manufacturer."
His words, "Our choice of the Embraer range of aircraft is premised on our desire to totally renew our fleet by introducing airplanes that are suited to provide comfort to our passengers."
Virgin Nigeria had at the Dubai Air Show in November last year, announced a firm order of 10 Embraer aircraft with options for 6 E-195 and purchase rights for 8 others, all valued at over $800 million.
The Embraer aircraft comes with unique features that will revolutionise air travel in Nigeria. The design of the E-Jets is such that it has a double bubble construction with a large fuselage that makes it more spacious, as well as, offering a more generous over head baggage compartment.
The Embraer 190 features a state-of-the-art In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) system, with individual TV screens in front of every seat as the aircraft is equipped with the new-generation i4500 satellite-based In-Flight Entertainment system supplied by Thales Avionics (U.S.A).
"Never before has any domestic operator introduced the Individual Inflight Entertainment system in Nigeria. We are, therefore, happy to pioneer this innovation. It is indeed another first that we have pioneered in the Nigerian aviation sector," he added.
Virgin Nigeria has since the commencement of its operations been in the vanguard of introducing customer focused products to give value for money.
According to the airline chief, "Today, we are the only domestic airline to be listed in the International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) directory, having passed the intensive IOSA audit.We also pioneered e-ticketing among domestic carriers and today, we are 100 per cent compliant across our entire network."
"Our choice of having this event in Abuja today is to reiterate the strength of our shuttle service between Lagos and Abuja, which has contributed greatly to the successes of many businesses.These really are exciting times for us at Virgin Nigeria, as we are poised to open more routes in the weeks ahead."
The airline, however, pledged its commitment to its ambition of acquiring 40 aircraft, employing 6000 Nigerians and creating about 100,000 ancilliary jobs over the next five years.
Meanwhile, to improve infrastructure at the nation's airports, particularly the major airports, the Federal Government has disclosed that airlines, particularly domestic airlines are owing the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and other agencies N8 billion.
The debts covers landing and parking fee, services provided by the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and other aeronautical charges.
However, the government said it may be forced to employ all lawful means to recover the debts and to avoid that, "it is better that we settle it from a round the table."
The Minister of State for Transport, Mr. Felix Hassan Hyat made the disclosure in Abuja at a press briefing to launch Virgin Nigeria's newly acquired Embraer aircraft, one of the 24 aircraft the airline has placed order for.
Hyat explained that the government was in a situation whereby the society is demanding for improved services, stressing that for improved services, there must be a reconciliation of all debts by the debtor airlines.
According to the minister, "we implore you to please respond to this clarion call by making good your agreement with the parastatals of the aviation industry. We may be forced to employ all lawful means to recover the debts and to avoid that, it is better that we settle it from a round the table."
The minister had in November last year held a meeting with the operators where he drew their attention to their indebtedness to the parastatals in the aviation industry.
He noted that it was sad that most of the airline operators had never responded positively. Most of the debtor airlines include European and Asian carriers and others, who over-fly the country's airspace.
He, however, used the occasion to thank the Senate president's leadership and that of the Committee on Aviation for the efforts that they made to ensure that the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) funds are released to help in the intervention of the critical projects that are required for the upliftment and improvement of the aviation industry.
He assured that the funds are not going to be shared amongst parastatals but rather would be used to handle only critical projects that are necessary for safety and security of the Nigeria aviation and the travelling public.
"So if there is any parastatal that is waiting for BASA money to be shared that parastatal must be making a mistake," he added.
President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua had directed that the BASA account and its management be transferred immediately to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), in line with Section 75 of the Civil Aviation Act, 2006.
The directive has put to rest controversy surrounding the agency in which custody the $36 million air agreement account should be. The BASA account is fund that accrued to the coffers of Nigeria through the defunct Nigeria Airways on routes agreements between the liquidated national carrier and other foreign carriers.
Before now, stakeholders in the aviation industry had called on the Federal Government to release the fund to tackle the myriad of problems bedeviling the nation's aviation sector, particularly on infrastructure decay.
He expressed joy that the aviation industry, which received the bashing of Nigerians has led to the restoration of confidence, further assuring that the government would live to expectation.