Virgin Atlantic's joint venture Nigerian carrier "will be up and running in the next few months", says Branson. The UK airline will hold a 49% stake and is providing its expertise to launch the new carrier. It is expected to reveal more details including key management positions, early in the new year (Flight International 12-18 October). It will launch services initially on short-haul domestic and international routes using "Airbus A320-sized aircraft" with long-haul services planned to follow.

Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway says the A320 and Boeing 737 are under evaluation. He indicates the latter may have the upper hand: "They are quite keen on the Boeing, as it is so strong in the region," he says. Long-haul plans are being finalised, but Ridgway says initial destinations will include Dubai, Johannesburg, London and New York. Options for the long-haul fleet are being studied, with one possibility being the transfer from Virgin Atlantic's fleet of A340-300s due to be retired in 2006.

Source: Flight International