Uh oh. It looks like Richard Branson’s foray into the African airline market is coming to an end. Virgin Nigeria will no longer be using the Virgin name, and Branson’s affiliation with the airline will be ending. Now, other than chaste Nigerians, the only virgins in the country will be a daily Virgin Atlantic Airbus from London.
The end of this relationship just shows how hard it can be to do business in Africa. Virgin Group’s relationship with Nigeria swayed with the changing winds of power. Under one regime, all was good yet under the next it became a nightmare. And the airline itself has been far from a beacon of stability.
In its short life, Virgin Nigeria has flown only 18 airplanes. So you might be surprised to know that those 18 airplanes have been split between A320s, A330s, A340s, ATR 42s, 737s, 767s, Embraer 190s, and Fokker 50s. Originally, they planned on serving domestic, regional, and long haul routes. But now, they’ve given up on long haul entirely and they’ve decided to center their fleet around the Embraers for regional routes. We’ll see if they even stick to this fleet long enough to take delivery of all of them.
It’s not really a surprise that Branson would be frustrated. What was once a promising partnership will now be dissolved, as soon as Virgin can sell its stake. Meanwhile, the airline will continue to operate but under a new Virgin-free name.