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Boeing wants US-Nigeria dispute settled, eyes business with African nation

Boeing has expressed its hope that the governments of Nigeria and the USA can “quickly resolve” issues preventing implementation of an open skies accord, saying it intends to do business with airlines from the African country in the future.

The manufacturer’s letter to US transportation secretary Norman Mineta comes at a time when the US Department of Transportation (DoT) is deliberating on Virgin Nigeria’s request to launch service to the USA in May.

That application - which also revealed the Nigerian carrier is in talks with Boeing for 767, 777 or 787 aircraft - has received some objections from US operators. They argue the African carrier it does not meet the ownership and control requirements set out in the Nigeria-USA open skies agreement.

“It is my understanding that there are some outstanding issues to be resolved in implementing this [open skies] agreement. We hope that the two governments can quickly resolve those issues,” writes Boeing’s vice president of international operations Robert Bauerlein.

“We intend to do business with airlines in Nigeria in the future, and we see them as significant customers for the African continent and the further development of aviation in that part of the world and between Africa and the United States.”

Continental Airlines and express carrier FedEx have argued that Virgin Nigeria is too closely linked with UK long-haul operator Virgin Atlantic, which has a 49% shareholding in Virgin Nigeria. Continental also feels that Virgin Nigeria should be blocked because the US major was last year forced to shelve its own plans to serve Nigeria after encountering difficulties in obtaining necessary rights - difficulties which it believes are connected with Virgin Nigeria’s launch.

In a filing yesterday to the DoT, Virgin Nigeria appeals to the department to approve its application, saying recent pleadings by Continental do not raise new substantive arguments to prevent it.

“By opening this bridge between the US and Nigeria, the US will pave the way for the introduction of many new air services in the US-Nigeria market and build closer ties between the US and Africa consistent with longstanding DoT policy,” it says.

“Moreover, the efforts of Virgin Nigeria to commence service between Nigeria and the United States have engendered a great deal of interest and/or support among congressional and business leaders in the United States as well as among Americans of Nigerian descent.”

This article first appeared on Air Transport Intelligence, an online business intelligence service for the air transport industry with 24 hour news and data available to subscribers.

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