Whether it’s the Harmattan, a strong seasonal trade wind which blows the Sahara Desert over West Africa into the Gulf of Guinea, or the monsoon rains of Nigeria’s ‘Rainy Season’, Nigeria itself is never short of a challenge. In this dynamic ever-changing environment, you will find some of the most resilient, determined and industrious people in the world- all with a warm and welcoming smile. Here at Virgin Atlantic, we are exceptionally fortunate to have some of the best people in the business supporting our operations into and out of West Africa, and we estimate that we directly support in excess of 100 local careers in Nigeria just from our single daily flight. In the very early hours of the morning, while our customers are cruising at 36,000 feet over the Sahara on route to Lagos, the airport team, over thirty persons strong, are making their way in to work to offer a warm African welcome to our over 300 customers, who might be travelling to seal a business deal, see a much-missed relative or rekindle a long-lost romance. Since we started the route, sixteen years ago to the day, we have carried around three million passengers between London Heathrow and Lagos. And the contribution of our people and that of our partners has been fundamental to our success in serving the people of Nigeria, who I now proudly call my compatriots and friends.
On a weekly basis, we offer more seats direct to the United Kingdom from Lagos than any other airline. We started our route from Lagos to London just as we started our airline in 1984 to offer new, innovative and thoughtful service. And this continues right through today, being the only airline to offer our customers free chilled water on arrival, locally inspired meals, an on board bar on every flight for our Upper Class passengers, a new economy seat and best-in-class lounge facilities both in Lagos and in London for our frequent and Premium cabin fliers. We try every day to do more for the communities in Nigeria we serve. I took the opportunity to catch-up with five people who have supported the Virgin Atlantic operation right from day one, to hear from them their best memories and the things that get them out of bed to meet our early morning arrival into Lagos!
It’s the love and pride for Nigeria and Virgin Atlantic that is the overriding theme of the lunch. Cosmas, our ticketing and customer service agent at Lagos Airport, conveyed that it’s impossible for him to tell his life story without mentioning the times he has enjoyed working with Virgin Atlantic. His best memory being a work trip to South Africa to study and complete some important aviation exams, and meeting the President of South Africa in the process. Gloria, one of our two Service Delivery Managers, has one especially indelible memory of her time working with Virgin Atlantic; her contractions began early while supervising operations within the baggage reclaim hall, and she shortly thereafter gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Seven years later, her daughter is now at school no doubt studying hard to pursue a career in aviation like her mum! Onyeka, our second Service Delivery Manager, reflects that her favourite memory of the last sixteen years was being commended by a passenger for helping passengers get all their shopping on board quite soon after we had commenced the route. Like most new airlines to Nigeria, we had under-estimated Nigeria’s love for shopping and the consequent volume of bags, and Onyeka pulled everything together in time for Christmas so that nobody was left disappointed.
Just to further celebrate their sixteen years of service, we gave the group the opportunity for a photo-shoot at the airport. Seen in the top photo is our very own ‘lady of luck’ Onyeka, representing both Nigeria and the United Kingdom from the flight deck of our Airbus 340-600 aircraft just after it arrived from London on the morning of our 16th anniversary.
The best people and the best customers
As we look forward to the future, we remain as committed as ever to serving Nigeria and its wonderful community. Like the Harmattan and ‘Rainy Season’ there will always be challenges, but we have the best people to ensure that our customers always enjoy the most thoughtful, innovative and reliable service from Nigeria to the world. Our current A340-600 offers one of the quietest cabins in the sky, not to mention its expansive cargo capacity for the significant trade that is undertaken between Nigeria and the United Kingdom. With this in mind, the future of the route looks extremely bright for our customers with our continued roll-out of brand new aircraft and technological capability across the fleet. Nigeria’s population is expected to grow to somewhere between the third and fourth largest in the world by 2050 and we look forward to playing a core role in its continued evolution and success.