Nigeria Airways is edging its way back onto the Lagos-London route, which it was forced to abandon 20 months ago after a safety row ignited between Nigeria and the UK. A deal has now been agreed with British Airways, under which the Nigerian flag carrier will partner BA on a three-times-a-week Boeing 747-400 service from London Heathrow.

Although neither airline has given out commercial details of the agreement, sources say that the route rights, aircraft and operational management will all be provided by BA. The Nigerian carrier, however, is understood to have a revenue or profit sharing scheme, possibly for the seats that it fills.

The two airlines began to talk again as soon as the two countries had repaired the air services agreement. The ban was lifted in July and BA quickly resumed the Lagos route. Despite local pressure, Nigeria Airways was unable to follow suit, due to a chronic shortage of aircraft. A further complication is last year's ruling in the UK courts over $31 million that it owes to Equator Leasing. The court ruled that the airline's assets be auctioned to pay the debt.

Nigeria Airways is hopeful that the arrangement will offer the opportunity to sell beyond flights out of London, although that may depend on what guarantees it is able to give BA.

The alliance is likely to provoke a reaction from other European carriers flying out of Lagos, with some privately fearing a fares war. The deal will also hit Bellview Airlines, a local independent carrier which has a commercial agreement with Nigeria Airways on services from Lagos to Amsterdam. Low-cost Bellview relies heavily on UK traffic connecting into Amsterdam via KLM subsidiary Transavia.

Source: Airline Business