Virgin Atlantic Airways today began operating the first ever direct service between London Gatwick and Port Harcourt, Nigeria. The inaugural flight by an Airbus A340-300 will land this evening in Port Harcourt. Joining passengers on the historic first flight will be Chief Executive Steve Ridgway, Director of Flight Operations Matthew Lee, Governor of the Rivers State Sir Philip Odili and British High Commissioner Sir Philip Thomas.
Commenting on the opening of Virgin’s twentieth route, Steve Ridgway, Chief Executive of Virgin Atlantic said today:
“We are delighted to be able to offer services to Port Harcourt in Nigeria. We were warmly welcomed in Nigeria when we launched services to Lagos in July 2001 and the success of that route has inspired us to add another Nigerian service. This is a market which has been crying out for a direct service from the UK for a long time.
“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 United States and this interest is expected to grow. Operating this service from Gatwick on this schedule 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 who 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.”
This new route brings the number of destinations on Virgin Atlantic’s route network to twenty. The twice-weekly direct service is a result of an agreement that Virgin Atlantic has concluded with the Nigerian authorities and Nigeria Airways. Virgin Atlantic has recently announced that it will also start services to Tobago and Grenada in May 2003.