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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05LAGOS1450
2005-09-19 09:48:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Consulate Lagos
Cable title:  

VIRGIN NIGERIA APPLIES FOR U.S. ROUTE

Tags:   EAIR  EINV  PREL  NI 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

190948Z Sep 05
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 001450 

SIPDIS

TRANSPORTATION FOR FAA;DAKAR PLEASE PASS TO FAA REP ED
JONES;ROME PLEASE PASS TO TSA REP JOHN HALINSKI

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/15/2015
TAGS: EAIR EINV PREL NI
SUBJECT: VIRGIN NIGERIA APPLIES FOR U.S. ROUTE

REF: LAGOS 1289

Classified By: Consul General Brian L. Browne for reason 1.4(d).

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 001450

SIPDIS

TRANSPORTATION FOR FAA;DAKAR PLEASE PASS TO FAA REP ED
JONES;ROME PLEASE PASS TO TSA REP JOHN HALINSKI

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/15/2015
TAGS: EAIR EINV PREL NI
SUBJECT: VIRGIN NIGERIA APPLIES FOR U.S. ROUTE

REF: LAGOS 1289

Classified By: Consul General Brian L. Browne for reason 1.4(d).


1. (U) This is an action cable. See paragraph 8.


2. (C) Summary. Virgin Nigeria (VN) CEO, Simon Harford, and
Head of Corporate Development, Yemi Osindero, recently told
ConGen officers their application for a direct U.S. route was
nearly completed, and requested Embassy officials submit the
application to the Department of Transportation (DOT) once it
had been finalized. Harford also has appeared in public with
the new Minister of Aviation, promising to work together to
meet FAA category 1 requirements. VN is hoping to use the
prospect of it being a leader on safety issues as another
fillip for DOT approval of a direct flight to the U.S. VN
hopes to obtain the DOT approval by Christmas 2005. Mission
requests guidance on whether to accept the VN application for
forwarding or to advise VN to submit it directly to DOT. End
Summary.

-------------- --
Virgin Nigeria is Ready for Direct U.S. Flights
-------------- --


3. (C) On September 12, Virgin Nigeria CEO Simon Harford met
Consulate officials to discuss VN's application for a direct
route to the United States. He said the application would be
completed by September 14 and asked if Embassy Abuja would
forward the application to the DOT on VN's behalf. He
intimated a USG official at a recent aviation conference in
Addis Ababa advised him to use Embassy channels to submit the
application. Harford expressed hope the turbulence that
occasioned Continental's departure from the Nigerian market
had dissipated. He thought that VN's decision to ask the DOT
first to send information on the application process,
although it led to a two month delay in waiting for a
response (reftel), had allowed some time to pass to heal any
wounds. Harford continued to stress the value of competition
in the Nigerian market and hoped to get USG officials
involved again in introducing a U.S. carrier. Harford

claimed miscommunications in the past between the GON and
Embassy officials had created bad blood. (Comment: VN is a
direct beneficiary of Continental's exit. Thus, Harford's
call for greater competition and the introduction of a U.S.
carrier ring hollow. VN did not lend a supportive voice when
Continental was here, yet VN now laments only after
Continental is good and gone. End Comment.)

-------------- -
Airline Takes Prominent Role in Airport Safety
-------------- -


4. (C) VN stressed they were working hand-in-hand with the
new Minister of Aviation to reach category 1 safety standards
for Nigerian airports. They were quite specific about their
leading role in the efforts and their close relationship with
the GON; Harford even boasted that he would be appearing with
the Minister in November at an aviation conference in Miami
to roll out a plan for achieving benchmarks.

-------------- --------------
VN Sees Safety Certification as Key to U.S. Route
-------------- --------------


5. (C) The GON had earlier requested a team of consultants
to inspect airports and make recommendations for improving
airport safety. Surprisingly, given the close relationship
between VN and the Ministry of Aviation, Harford was unaware
of the request and the DOT's agreement to visit Nigeria.
Harford wanted to meet the DOT team. Harford emphasized VN's
seminal role in augmenting the Ministry's efforts to improve
safety standards, and noted that USG officials had commended
their actions.


6. (C) In a separate conversation, one of VN's non-executive
board directors said Harford was seeking authorization to
begin hiring and purchasing airplanes for a planned Christmas
flight to New York. Boeing has already contacted the
Consulate Security Office regarding the placement of
consultants in Lagos to assist VN with the new planes. It
seems that the VN-Boeing meetings reported reftel are moving
forward. The VN Board, however, is cautious about expansion,
and skeptical of Harford's ability to get the U.S. route so
quickly. In addition, VN's Board is concerned over domestic
airline Chanchangi's recent doubling of salaries for pilots,
which has caused a significant move of VN personnel to
Chanchangi.

7. (C) Comment. Following the meeting reported reftel, this
meeting represents VN's and Harford's second advance in their
"charm offensive" with us. Harford exuded confidence
regarding VN's ability to meet DOT requirements for a U.S.
route. Underlying this confidence, however, is an
uncertainty whether the USG would mete out the same treatment
to VN that the GON gave to Continental. At this last
meeting, he dangled VN's commitment to improve airport safety
to coax our support for VN's application. When asked why it
took so long for VN to submit the application, Harford
expatiated that his airline was new and thus ignorant of the
process. (The latter part of this explanation no doubt was
intended to show VN was not a vassal of the greater Virgin
conglomerate.) Harford is making a strong and suprisingly
transparent effort to woo the Mission over to his side and,
in doing so, is shaping facts to paint the rosiest possible
picture of his airline's activities. End comment.


8. (C) Action requested: Mission requests guidance from
State and DOT on whether to accept the VN application for
forwarding, or to advise VN to submit the application
directly to DOT. Further guidance on whether it would be
useful to have more in depth discussions with VN on safety
issues is also requested.
BROWNE