UNITED States authorities has resolved to consider several objections and comments it has received on Virgin Nigeria’s desire to obtain permission to fly direct to the US. Support for the application is also on the rise among Nigerians residing in the country.
Spokesman of the US Department of Transportation, Mr. Biol Mosley told The Guardian at the weekend that the department had received several objections since Virgin Nigeria’s application was filed on December 22.
Among the objections are those from three US airlines – American Airlines, Continental Airlines and World Airways. There is also an objection from FedEx, a US courier company.
PRONACO-US has also submitted a petition, asking the US Transportation Department to reject Virgin Nigeria’s application.
But in what seems as fallout from the PRONACO objection, no less than 70 petitions in support of the Virgin Nigeria has been sent to the US government via the US Department of Transportation’s website.
Some of the supporting petitions are from the New York office of the United Bank for Africa (UBA), New Era Capital Corporation, former TV physical trainer, Pamela Mojekwu-Christopher and several other Nigerian professionals, including medical doctors, investment bankers, college professors.
Virgin Nigeria’s application comes under the US-Nigeria Open Skies agreements, which sets “liberal ground rules for international aviation markets and minimise government intervention,” according to a US government statement.
It is now two months after the Nigerian-designated airline applied to the US government for approval. Mosley, however, said there was yet no specific time when the US government would take a decision.
But conscious that the objections to its application may affect the decision of the US government, officials of Virgin Nigeria (VN) have reportedly entered into talks with the US airlines that objected to its application.
Dr. Yemi Osindero, the Corporate Development Director of Virgin Nigeria, said one of the firms, American Airlines, has withdrawn its objections. He described World Airways’ objection as benign with the approval by the Nigerian government of World Airways application to fly direct to Lagos.
“Continental Airways is the main objection now,” Osindero said, adding that, “Virgin Nigeria will like to work with Continental as partners on the US-Nigeria routes.”
He said FedEx’s objection had more to do with the United Kingdom government and Virgin Nigeria’s technical partners, Virgin Airlines of UK.
Osindero, himself a former UK-based Nigerian professional, dispelled claims that Virgin Nigeria was trying to become a monopoly on the Lagos-New York route. “We are not trying to be a monopoly; Virgin Nigeria is all for open service of the US-Nigeria route, the route is bigger than one airline to manage,” he said.
Indeed, it is believed that the US-Nigeria route is one of the most lucrative routes in the business. It is believed that Air France, for instance, makes 20 per cent of its profit in Africa.