Virgin Atlantic Airways today announced that it will be operating its new direct route between London and Port Harcourt, Nigeria from Gatwick. The twice weekly service, which is a result of an agreement that Virgin Atlantic has concluded with the Nigerian authorities and Nigeria Airways, will commence on 25 February 2003 using an Airbus A340-300.
Commenting on the announcement, Steve Ridgway, Chief Executive of Virgin Atlantic said today:
“We are delighted to confirm that Virgin Atlantic will be operating its Port Harcourt service from Gatwick using a A340-300 from the end of February. This is a market which has been crying out for a direct service from the UK for a long time.
“We were warmly welcomed in Nigeria when we launched services to Lagos in July 2001 and the success of this route has inspired us to add another Nigerian service.
“Port Harcourt is the oil capital of West Africa and we are hoping that the introduction of this new service will improve trade links for Nigeria with the UK and US. A significant proportion of oil traffic to Africa originates from the States and this interest is expected to grow. Operating this service from Gatwick at these times will provide favourable connections for those travelling via London to Nigeria from US oil hubs such as Houston.
“We would like to thank everyone in Nigeria that has made this new route possible, particularly the Nigerian President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Hon. Minister of Aviation Dr (Mrs) Chikwe; the members of the Aviation Committee of the National House of Assembly; and, the management of Nigerian Airways.”
Virgin Atlantic will begin services on February 25 2003. Flights will depart Gatwick on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 and 09.40 respectively and arrive in Port Harcourt at 18:10 and 17.50 respectively for the first month. From 1 April 2003, flights will depart Gatwick on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 10.00 and arrive in Port Harcourt at 17.10. Services will depart Port Harcourt on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 23.30 and arrive at Gatwick at 05.40 for the first month. From 1 April 03 services will depart Port Harcourt on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 23.30 arrive at Gatwick at 05.40.
The Airbus A340-300 operating this route is configured with 40 Upper Class, 28 Premium Economy and 187 Economy seats. This is the first time that Virgin Atlantic will be operating an A340-300 aircraft from Gatwick. Virgin Atlantic also operates services between London Heathrow and Lagos six times a week and will increase to daily services from May 2003, subject to Government approval.
This new route will bring the number of destinations on Virgin Atlantic’s route network to twenty. Virgin Atlantic has recently announced that it will also start services to Tobago and Grenada in May 2003.