Virgin Nigeria Ends Long Haul Flying Today

Virgin Nigeria

For those of you who think that all Sir Richard Branson touches turns to gold, all you need to do is take a look at Virgin Nigeria to see a very different story. (Or study up on Virgin Express, but that’s for another time.)

The airline was started at a time when the Nigerian airline industry was in shambles, and there was plenty of oil money floating around. So, Sir Richard packed his bags and went down south to put together a new airline in his empire. Unfortunately for him, it has been far from easy sailing for the airline.

It seems that routes and aircraft types have floated in and out of the airline on a regular basis. It looked like their short haul strategy was finally settling down with the introduction of the Embraer jets, but their long haul flying was still a mess.

As of today, Virgin Nigeria has suspended all long haul flying, uh, temporarily, they say. That includes the routes to London and Johannesburg. Why did this happen? Well according to the airline, there’s too much new capacity and their tired product couldn’t compete. Why not just fix their product? Well, I’m guessing they don’t have the cash for it.

This means that the airline will return its two 767s to the lessor, but Virgin Nigeria apparently plans to be back in the market eventually, when they can get their act together.

How is it that Branson is willing to put up with this? Well, it appears that he has had less and less involvement in the airline. He has tried to sell his stake already, but nothing has come of it. The politics down in Nigeria must be frustrating him to no end.

For long haul passengers from Lagos, you can still fly Virgin Atlantic to London if you like the Virgin brand, or you can fly British Airways, Bellview, or Arik Air as well. South African appears to be the only airline that will fly you nonstop to Johannesburg.

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5 comments on “Virgin Nigeria Ends Long Haul Flying Today

  1. Well, sort of. Though it moved around, at the end Virgin Nigeria was flying to Gatwick and Atlantic was flying to Heathrow. But yeah, they were sort of competing.

  2. It would take a full column to list the failed West African carriers alone. The one shining example, Air Afrique, is still missed by some as the African version of SAS. Civil unrest, politicking, failing economies and all such impacted the product and the once stable platform from which it operated.

    Virgin Nigeria won’t be back and few will regret its passing.

  3. Don’t forget too that the Nigerian Government has been monkeying around with the airport that they’ll let Virgin’s short-haul operate out of vs. long-haul operation. If memory serves me right, they wanted to split the operation between the two airports which would lose all connectivity. Also, Virgin Nigeria is taking arrival on new EMB-190s for short-haul ops with new nice entertainment systems. Can hardly say they’re not giving it their all.

  4. Branson lost interest during the disagreement between the airline and international airport authorities who wanted them to relocate their domestic operations to the domestic terminal. While it makes sense that domestic and international operations should be segregated, the logistics dont play out so well. the domestic terminal is far from the international one and very awkward to commute to. Therefore passengers outside Lagos would be faced with the unenviable hassle of trekking the distance by taxi and checking in again, if i am right. Then of course there is the security issue of luggage being potentially tampered with. Branson wanted a seamsless transition and says they had an agreement for the airline to conduct its operations from one base. The airport authorities claim it was an MOU. Having said that, passengers outside Lagos flying to London via any other airline go through this process anyway and its not stopped them so maybe branson should have bided his time more carefully.
    The net result is Virgin support is no longer existent and missing from the pot is the consultancy, advice and financial backing of the successful and experienced carrier. Had they been around virgin nigeria could be boasting a flagship A340-600 with far lower operating costs and a break even of 30% capacity over the decadent 767-300 they were wet leasing.
    A long term view would on the possible effects would have allowed some dialogue to uncover a favourable compromise. Passengers will always find ways to get to places but lets not forget any company is a reflection of national pride and provides jobs. The people of the country are those to suffer.
    On another note Cifford says when they can purchase new aircraft they will resume the route. My question is how can they afford one when they are spending all this cash on many new embraers?? Seems to me they are more intersted in local and west african routes and want to concentrate there.

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