UNITED AIRLINES HALTS FLIGHTS TO NIGERIA

Foreign airlines are gradually halting their operations in the country blaming the current harsh economic conditions especially the new Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, foreign exchange policy regulating repatriation of revenue back home.

United Airlines, an American carrier,is the latest to give indications to stop operating its Houston-Lagos-Houston route pointing out that the last of such flights would cease June ending.

According to the latest decision, flights originating from Houston would cease come June 29 while the last flight originating from the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, would be operated the following day.

Effective from that date, Delta Airlines would become the only airlines operating direct flights between the Unites States and Nigeria.

United Airlines, by this action, is toeing the Spainishnationalcarrier, Iberia Airlines’ example which announced a few weeks ago halting flights into the country citing plummeting passenger traffic  since the setting in of the global economic meltdown consequent upon a sharp drop in world oil prices.

Consequent upon the Open Skies pact between Nigeria and the US, United Airlines began operating into our skies about six years ago toboost economic relationship between both nations. Nigeria is the only destination in Africa operated by the US carrier.

Already, the Airlines’ employees have been informed of the decision, pointing out that over the years had underachieved but was kept alive because of its importance to Texas-based customers.

Apart from economic reasons, Spokesman for the airline, Jonathan Guerin, also quoted operational difficulties as another reason behind his airlines exit from Nigeria since it currently faces acute energy crisis resulting in scarcity of aviation fuel, otherwise known as Jet A1.

“Repatriation has been a significant issue, as has been the downturn in the energy sector,” he said.

Affirming the decision to pull out of the Nigerian market, the airline’s Head of Press, Europe, Africa, Middle East and India, United Airlines, Mr. Kevin Johnston, said, “United confirms that it will discontinue its service between Houston and Lagos. The last departure from Houston will be on June 29 and the last departure from Lagos will be on June 30.

Nigeria’s flagship airport: Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos
Nigeria’s flagship airport: Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos

“We have regretfully taken this decision because of the route’s poor financial performance. We will contact customers with bookings for flights beyond those dates to provide refunds. We apologise for any inconvenience caused,” he added.

Following the development, the Boeing 787 serving Lagos is to be redeployed the carrier’s San Francisco to Tel Aviv route, which will expand to daily in October from three times weekly.

However, there’s a relief for passengers to Nigerian destinations from Houston to take advantage ofUnited’s trans-Atlantic business partner, Deutsche Lufthansa AG, through a connection in Frankfurt.