Nigeria Urged To Open Routes To More Airlines

May 20, 2005

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Nigeria's privately run Bellview Airlines asked authorities on Friday to enable more Nigerian operators to service the lucrative routes reserved for the national carrier.

Nigeria has reserved routes to London, New York, Dubai, Jeddah and Johannesburg for Virgin Nigeria, set up last year in a joint venture with British tycoon Richard Branson, after the liquidation of debt-laden Nigeria Airways in 2003.

"The reservation of these routes for Virgin Nigeria's exclusive exploitation amounts to government giving undue privileges and subsidy to Virgin in a market that is supposedly liberalized," Bellview said in a statement.

The airline cited the deregulation of the Nigerian telecoms industry and said further liberalization of the aviation sector would enable the domestic operators to generate international revenue for the world's eighth-largest oil exporter.

Bellview, one of six airlines Nigeria designated in 2004 as flag carriers for international and regional operations, services Accra, Freetown and Abidjan. It hopes to add Mumbai, next month.

Many Nigerian airlines have expressed displeasure at the reservation of routes for the national carrier, but aviation experts argue that operators who are struggling to service local and regional routes lack the capacity to compete with mega carriers on the London and New York routes.

(Reuters)