Better days are ahead of Nigerian air travellers, particularly the Virgin Atlantic customers, as the British flag carrier is set to deploy one of its brand new aircraft, the Airbus A350-1000 on the Lagos/London route from August 2020.
Unveiling this at a press conference in Lagos, the Chief Executive Officer of the airline, Shai Weiss attributed reasons for deploying the new plane on the Lagos/London route to the strategic importance the airline placed on its loyal customers on the route.
Weiss said he was in Nigeria as part of the airline’s strategic growth to reposition and consolidate on the Lagos/London route and to hold business meetings with the airlines’ strategic partners in the country, adding that the introduction of a new A350-1000 aircraft on the Nigerian route will allow Nigerians to experience tremendous benefits ranging from access to environmental friendly plane, high class net workings and seamless connectivity.
Pledging more commitment to Nigeria in 2029, the CEO declared that Nigeria’s flying public should expect a more robust and better services from the British flag carrier in the coming year.
According to Weiss: “Our Nigerian customers have always been amongst our most loyal and supportive and we’re delighted they will now be able to experience our brand new A350-1000 between Lagos and London Heathrow. Not only will it increase capacity for us on this popular route, it represents a true evolution of our customer experience and forms a significant part of our fleet transformation strategy. By 2024, we will operate the youngest and greenest fleet in the sky and the fuel efficiency of Virgin Atlantic’s fleet will have improved by 32 per cent.
“By 2024, we want to retire all the B747. The total age of our fleet is 5.3 years. We have a young fleet.”
Planes can fly for 20, 30 years and more. The A350 is a fantastic plane, it is very fuel efficient. If you look at the Co2 in 2024 and you compare it ten years before that, it will reduce by 40 per cent and that is one of the biggest thing airlines can do to reduce co2 emission which I know will be also important for Nigeria.
“Virgin Atlantic is 35 this year, flying to Lagos 18 years. You have to evolve. It doesn’t mean that we cannot be sexy. If you got on this plane, I tell you, it is a sexy plane. You need to grow to become more sexy again and we are back to growth. The approach of Virgin Atlantic is different. We were all younger when we fell in love. I know love is different when you are a bit older”.
“We know that the growth in Nigeria is going to be second to none because the population growth is so big. We have to manage it in a responsible way. That is what that means and we say we have the cleanest, the youngest and the quietest fleet which you know that for some locations which we land, noise is also a big consideration. In Heathrow, you have to have a very clear guidelines and if you don’t meet those guidelines, you will be required to pay taxes”, he added.
Asked if the carrier was looking at expansion into more cities in Nigeria, the airline chief said his company was in growth mode not only in Nigeria where they have made some strides but expanding to other cities like Tel Aviv, increasing its flights to Mumbai and opening up services to South America.
Weiss in his interaction with the media unfolded many incentives awaiting the airline’s customers even as he declared that Virgin Atlantic has returned to profitability and ready to launch more routes to South America.
His words: “The plans are to retire the old planes like B747 and A340 for the new ones that are coming. B747 by the way has been a fantastic plane. Everybody loves the B747. The passengers absolutely love it especially the upper deck but it has been 50 years that it has been flying and there are new technologies, better planes, more efficient, more noise efficient and we are moving to those. We are not saying we have been operating B747 for 50 years. We retired one actually last week”.
“There is nothing better than the A350. Being our best equipment, growing by ten per cent, increasing our presence and going to the Virgin of old, you will know that we are serious about this market allows you to connect freely to other parts of the world through London, other places. This is our renewed focus on Lagos, Nigeria as essential part of our business. When things were tough here three years ago, we did not leave. It was easy to leave. It cost us a lot of money to stay. It was difficult with capital restriction of the Naira and the repatriation of fund, we stuck it out because we are committed to Nigeria. You are going to see better service.”Read Full Story