Exploiting the ‘Open Skies’ pact between Nigeria and the United States, United Airlines may have concluded plans to return to Nigeria nearly five years after it ceased direct flights from Houston, Texas to Lagos. The carrier has not hidden its desire to commence a Washington-Lagos flight in Spring 2021.
Nigeria and the United States on August 26, 2000, signed an “Open Skies Agreement” that was to expand and enhance the overall aviation partnership between the two countries. The agreement was signed by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater and Nigerian Transport Minister Kema Chikwe.
The airline was operating Lagos to Houston prior to the 2016 economic depression amid foreign airlines’ N120 billion stuck in Nigeria. United’s exit left Delta as the only U.S. carrier that continued to offer nonstop service between Atlanta and Lagos and Abuja.
Not setting a definite date, the airline had earlier said: “The new route is subject to government approval and tickets will be available for purchase on united.com and the United app in the coming weeks.” According to a source from the carrier, who is aware of the development “United is looking forward to offering nonstop service between Lagos and Washington, D.C. with a new, three-times-weekly service. United will announce a start date and inform travelers when our flights will be available for purchase in the coming weeks”, the source confided in AirInsight.
On September 9, 2020, United Airlines disclosed intended operations to two West African countries (Nigeria and Ghana). The carrier then said: “United will become the only U.S. carrier serving Accra nonstop from Washington, D.C. and the only airline to serve Lagos nonstop from Washington, D.C., with three weekly flights to each destination beginning in late spring 2021.
“The Washington metropolitan area has the second-largest population of Ghanaians in the United States, and Lagos is the largest Western African destination from the United States. Now, with 65 different U.S. cities connecting through Washington Dulles, United will offer convenient one-stop connections to Western Africa“, he added.
“We are excited to announce our return to Nigeria. This new nonstop service will strengthen our international route network and provide our customers from Nigeria with direct access to the United States and the possibility to connect via our Washington Dulles hub to destinations across the Americas,” said Marcel Fuchs, United’s Managing Director International Sales during the announcement in 2020. “Connecting Lagos to the U.S. will open up new opportunities for both business and leisure travelers and help our customers in Nigeria reconnect with friends and family around the world.”
“United’s new service from Lagos to Washington Dulles will be operated with Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft. The revolutionary design of the Dreamliner offers customers many features for increased comfort such as large windows, spacious overhead storage and modern LED lighting to simulate a full day, helping passengers adjust their internal clock on the trans-Atlantic flight. In addition, a lower cabin altitude, cleaner air, and smoother ride help customers feel rested on arrival.”