By Sade Williams
If the plan by Arik Air Nigeria, West Africa’s largest carrier, to begin operating direct flights between Lagos and New Delhi, sees the light of day, trade between the two countries is expected to receive a massive boost with travellers from both countries getting seamless flights to their destinations.
The airline said during the week that it has begun exploring the possibility of introducing a direct service to India, following a recent visit from Ajjampur Rangalah Ghanashyam, the Indian high commissioner to Nigeria, to the airline’s headquarters in Lagos.
The High Commissioner was at the Arik Air Aviation Centre to explore opportunities on how to facilitate direct flights between Nigeria and India.
Presently, there are no direct flights between the two countries, with travellers currently forced to board connecting flights through Addis Ababa, South Africa or Dubai.
According to the High Commissioner, direct flights between Nigeria and India would boost business, tourism, save passengers flight time and reduce the stress of the journey.
“Direct flights are also important during medical emergencies, because direct movement of patients during emergencies would save a lot of lives,” he said.
Speaking after inspecting the facilities at Arik Air headquarters, Ghanashyam said he was impressed with the profile of the airline, which appears to him a professionally run carrier.
He stressed Arik Air’s fleet size, route network and staff strength meant it was an airline that would serve as a strong partner in providing direct flights between India and Nigeria.
“With over 120 daily flights, 26 aircraft and over 2,000 direct employees, Arik Air qualifies as a serious player for any Indian airline to partner with in order to facilitate seamless flights between the two countries.
“This visit to Arik Air is the first stage in building an initial bridge of understanding. The airlines will decide the potential and viability of a partnership. I am confident that Arik Air has done well, given the facilities I have seen,” Ghanashyam concluded.
The High Commissioner was received on the visit by Johnson Arumemi-Ikhide, the chairman of Arik Air; Michael Arumemi-Ikhide, president/group chief executive; and Ado Sanusi, a captain and deputy managing director,.
Arik Air is Nigeria and West Africa’s largest airline and operates mainly from two hubs at Murtala Muhammed Airport Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja.
It operates a fleet of 26 state-of-the art regional, medium haul and long haul aircraft including two Airbus A340-500 making the airline the first operator of the wide bodied aircraft in Africa.
The airline currently serves 20 destinations across Nigeria as well as Accra (Ghana), Banjul (Gambia), Dakar (Senegal), Freetown (Sierra Leone), Monrovia (Liberia),Cotonou (Benin) and Douala (Cameroon), Luanda (Angola), London Heathrow (UK), Johannesburg (South Africa) and New York JFK (USA).
The airline operates a combined number of about 120 daily flights from its hubs in Lagos and Abuja, and has been Africa’s fastest growing airline for the last two years.