FI2008: Arik Air plans five class configuration on 747-8s

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Fast growing Nigerian carrier Arik Air plans to operate its Boeing 747-8 Intercontinentals in a five-class configuration, including a “presidential” cabin.

The Lagos-based carrier confirmed its commitment for four 747-8 passenger aircraft – one more than originally detailed in May’s letter of intent – during the Farnborough air show.

Arik Air, the second airline to commit to the passenger version of the aircraft, will take delivery of the aircraft in 2012-13.

It forms part of the carrier’s plans to develop its presence in the long-haul sector. It is currently finalising moves to lease capacity – it is close to a deal to bring in three Airbus A340-500s – to support its launch of flights from Lagos to London Heathrow this autumn and the USA early next year. In 2011 it will start taking delivery of five Boeing 777-200LRs/-300ERs and later four Boeing 787-9s.

Speaking during a press conference during the Farnborough air show, Arik Air chairman Sir Joseph Arumemi-Johnson says the addition of the 747-8s will give it the opportunity to further develop its product offering for the premium market.

“If you look at Lagos-London, it is the front end that is full. We want to give the market what they want and step it [the quality] up,” he says. The carrier plans to operate its 747-8s in five classes – including a presidential class seating 16 on the upper deck. “It will be like a private jet in an airliner,” he says.

Established in 2006, Arik has grown rapidly, initially on the domestic and regional network. The carrier, according to Flight’s ACAS database, currently operates eight Boeing 737s and four Bombardier CRJ regional jets. It has four Bombardier Q400s on order and during the show raised its outstanding orders for 737 narrowbodies by signing for seven more 737-800/900s. This adds to ten 737s already on order.

Arik Air executive director, corporate strategy, Michael Arunemi-Ikhide says: “Nigeria, and west Africa as a whole, is a region with great opportunities.

“We have literally doubled the amount of air transport in two years, but there is still more potential. Nigeria has a population of 140 million plus,” he says. “There is a great opportunity for anyone who can come in and attend to that market properly, with a first class service.”