Arik sees lack of Heathrow slots preventing growth

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Arik Air is being held back from expanding its London-Lagos services by a lack of slots at Heathrow airport, says the Nigerian carrier's chief executive.

Michael Arumemi-Ikhide says that while Arik has traffic rights to fly 21 frequencies per week, a lack of suitable landing slots at the hub airport is stopping it from adding to the seven it currently operates.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, on the other hand, operate the full allocation of 21 services from London to Nigeria, he adds.

Arumemi-Ikhide says the Nigerian government is pressing UK authorities to release further slots, but so far to no avail.

"We have been pushing for that for some time. There is a real distinction between traffic rights and slots," he says.

"The British government has been very co-operative in trying to address this issue, but when it is all said and done we are limited. That is the preserve of the [Nigerian] government, to come to some headway."

Arik's boss sees the problems of obtaining Heathrow slots as part of a wider issue of Nigerian airlines not enjoying "reciprocity" on the terms of bilateral air service agreements.