Emirates Expands in Nigeria with Abuja and Kano Connection

United Arab Emirates (UAE) carrier, Emirates Airline, is set to expand its presence in Africa’s most populous country Nigeria, with the start of a daily linked service to Abuja and Kano from August 1, 2014. The announcement follows Emirates’ recent milestone of 10 years of successful operations to Lagos, to which the airline flies twice daily.

Emirates introduced flights to Nigeria on January 2, 2004 with four flights per week from Dubai to Lagos linked with Accra in Ghana, using an Airbus A330-200 aircraft. Just over a year later it increased its services from four to six flights a week, and following further demand, it became a daily operation in October 2005. With effect from January 1, 2006, Lagos was delinked from Accra and became a direct destination from to Dubai and just over three years later on February 1, 2009, a second daily service was introduced.

Today, both of Emirates’ flights to Lagos are flown using Boeing 777-300ER equipment, but the new linked Abuja and Kano service will be serviced by an A340-500 offering a total of 258 seats in a three class configuration – 12 in First Class, 42 in Business Class and 204 in Economy Class.

Emirates SkyCargo, the freight division of the airline, already offers a scheduled freighter service to Kano (launched in October 2013), but Abuja will be a new point on the UAE carrier’s network, increasing its route map to cover 26 destinations in Africa and 142 worldwide in 80 countries.

“Nigeria is experiencing strong demographic and economic growth. The country is strategic to Emirates’ global expansion, as is Africa. With a daily linked service to Abuja and Kano, we will offer from three major cities in the country a very convenient and comfortable access to Dubai, and onwards to other destinations on the Emirates network,” said Thierry Antinori, executive vice president and chief commercial officer, Emirates Airline. “The new service will also help create new opportunities for business, industry and tourism.”

Abuja will be the first stop on the linked service on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, and Kano will be the first stop on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The former, located in the centre of the country, is a planned city built largely during the 1980s which replaced Lagos as Nigeria’s capital in 1991.

Abuja is also the seat of the Federal Government and home to most of Nigeria’s institutions, including the Central Bank of Nigeria and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation as well as the headquarters of the Economic Community of West African States and the regional headquarters of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

The city is currently only directly linked to Frankfurt (Lufthansa), London (British Airways) and Paris (Air France) although in the last ten years there were also connections to Amsterdam, Jeddah, Medinah, New York, and between August 2009 and August 2013, a weekly link to Dubai by Kabo Air using a Boeing 767.

The new Emirates route brings new connection opportunities from Kano, the capital of Kano State in northern Nigeria, and the second most populous city in Nigeria after Lagos. The city has a history that goes back hundreds of years and the area is known for the production and export of groundnuts, which was a major source of Nigeria’s export earnings before the oil boom in the 1970s.

Despite this, air connectivity outside of Africa is currently limited from Kano and travelers generally have to connect via the capital, Lagos to travel to destinations on other Continents. In fact, schedule data shows that Beirut, in the Lebanon and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia are the only intercontinental destinations served non-stop from the city’s Mallam Aminu International Airport, although Turkish Airlines does now serve the city (from December 2013) as a linked operation with the Chad capital, N’Djamena, from Istanbul. KLM had previously provided a direct link from Kano into Europe but its flight to Amsterdam was suspended in June 2012.