Virgin Atlantic's Nigerian airline joint venture is expected to be up and running with an Airbus A320 fleet by January, initially operating short-haul routes from its Lagos hub, with long-haul services planned later.

Virgin Nigeria will be majority-owned by Nigerian investors, with Virgin Atlantic holding a 49% share valued at around $24.5 million. The remainder will be held by Nigerian institutional investors, via a private placement process to be completed before launch. The UK airline will support the carrier by providing "expertise and services", enabling the launch to be undertaken rapidly.

"We are now moving rapidly to secure the necessary approvals and permits and we look forward to publishing in the next few weeks further details," says Virgin group chairman Sir Richard Branson.

Flights are expected to begin "early in the new year" using A320s, says the airline. Initial services will be operated on the domestic Lagos-Abuja route, with Kano and Port Harcourt to follow. Planned international regional destinations include Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Accra, Ghana; and Dakar, Senegal, with longer-haul services to Europe, the Middle East and the USA also eventually envisaged. Virgin Atlantic operates from London to Lagos and Port Harcourt. The new airline will operate separately.

* BMI will launch its first long- haul scheduled services from London Heathrow in March, after approval to serve Bangalore and Mumbai, India. BMI flies long-haul services only from Manchester.



Source: Flight International