Ethiopian Airlines-Led Consortium To Back New Nigerian Flag Carrier

Nigeria Air Boeing 737-800 concept

Nigeria Air Boeing 737-800 concept

Credit: Nigerian Government

Nigeria has chosen a consortium anchored by Ethiopian Airlines as the preferred bidder to create the West African country’s new national airline. 

Nigeria Air is scheduled to be launched with three Boeing 737-800s by year-end. Its initial route will be a shuttle service between the capital Abuja and the country’s main commercial hub, Lagos. Other domestic destinations are expected to follow.  

Nigeria has been without a designated national carrier since Air Nigeria—whose previous incarnations were Virgin Nigeria and Nigerian Eagle Airlines—collapsed in 2012. The new national airline originally was proposed at the 2018 Farnborough Airshow. 

Following the issue of a Request for Proposals (RFP) in March 2022, only one compliant bid, from the Ethiopian Airline Consortium, was available to be opened on June 10.  

The preferred bidder consortium comprises Ethiopian Airlines (49%), three Nigerian private investors (totaling 46%) and the Nigerian government (5%). The preferred bidder will be expected to provide a share capital of $300 million for Nigeria Air, which aims to ramp up quickly to a fleet of 30 aircraft over the next two years and begin international flights.  

The contract now will be negotiated between the consortium and federal government, leading to a “full business case,” which is expected to be approved by the Nigerian Federal Executive Council in 6-8 weeks.   

The government said an interim executive team of aviation specialists has been working since February to write regulatory and industry requirements to launch the national carrier. All executives have been approved by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which issued an air transport license. Nigeria Air, having identified its first three aircraft, now will finalize the necessary operations manuals and undergo the NCAA’s inspection and approval process.  

Nigeria Air’s 737-800s will be operated in a two-class configuration, with 16 business and 150 economy-class seats.  

The Nigerian launch team will work directly with Ethiopian to provide the three aircraft and their initial crews and engineers, while Nigeria recruits Boeing 737-rated cockpit and cabin personnel, together with engineers. 

The government says the first aircraft “is ready to arrive in Abuja for the further work and NCAA inspection, demo flights and audit as part of the [air operator certificate, or AOC] requirements. In time, two others will arrive to complete the required three aircraft for a new AOC holder.” 

Alan Dron

Based in London, Alan is Europe & Middle East correspondent at Air Transport World.