Nigerian carrier orders Boeing widebodies to support expansion this year to London Heathrow and the USA

Nigeria's Arik Air has placed firm orders for four Boeing 777s and three 787s to support a new long-haul network to be launched later this year with wet-leased Airbus A330/A340s.

Arik managing director Mike McTighe says the Nigerian start-up negotiated a deal in December with Boeing for two 777-200ERs, two 777-200LRs and three 787-9s. A firm contract was signed in January and the order will be formally announced this week at a signing ceremony in Seattle in conjunction with delivery of two 737-700s.

McTighe says all four 777s are scheduled for delivery in the first quarter of 2011 and will be used for services to the USA. The 787s are scheduled for delivery in 2014 and are earmarked primarily for services to London.

As an interim widebody solution, Arik is now in the final stages of negotiating a two-year wet-lease on one A330-200 with an undisclosed supplier. "We're negotiating to lease an A330-200 and we want to serve London from August onwards on a wet-lease," McTighe says. Arik won access to London Heathrow in a new bilateral signed by the UK and Nigerian governments in December.

McTighe says Arik is also interested in wet-leasing in 2008 a second A330-200 that would be used for services to the Middle East and South Africa. The carrier is also seeking to wet-lease one A340-500 to support the launch of two or three weekly flights to Houston this autumn.

Eventually Arik intends to operate its 777-200ERs on the Lagos-Houston route while the longer-range 777-200LRs may be used to launch services to Los Angeles.

Arik, which launched domestic services last October, now serves eight domestic destinations in Nigeria with a fleet of nine aircraft. It owns two 737-300s and four Bombardier CRJ900s and wet-leases two Bombardier Q300s and one Fokker 50 from Denim Air.

McTighe says Arik's domestic network will be expanded in May to 12 cities following the delivery of three secondhand CRJ200s that are being dry-leased for three years from GE Capital Aviation Services.

The two 737-700s that will roll off the Boeing assembly line later this month will enter service in June and be used in to launch Arik's first international services - from Lagos to Accra in Ghana, Dakar in Senegal and Duala in Cameroon.

Source: Flight International