Azman Air’s Ex-Virgin A340 With 2 Business Seats Takes Flight

Nigerian airline Azman Air has taken its A340-600 for a spin. For the first time since it was delivered in February this year, the ex-Virgin A340 has been flown on a series of promotional flights between Kano, Abuja and Lagos. The airline has hinted that route announcements will be coming soon.

Azman Air A340
Azman has taken its A340 for a spin. Photo: Azman Air

Azman’s A340 takes flight

Azman Air has finally got its A340 off the ground. The ex-Virgin Atlantic A340-600 has been with the airline since February, but was yet to perform any flying activity. Now, the airline has performed what it calls some ‘shakedown’ flights, from its base in Kano to Abuja and Lagos.

The shakedown flights come after the Nigerian government approved the restart of international flights. While no announcements have been made about where the A340 will fly, Azman Airlines said we should “Expect Good News Soon”.

Azman Air A340
The A340 has taken to the skies! Photo: Azman Air

In a statement, the airline said,

“The Hardwork of the Management and Staff at AzmanAir is gradually paying off as we edge closer to Redefining International Flight Experience out of Nigeria with our Airbus A340-600.

“Having Satisfied all the requirements in activating the Airbus for Operations, We successfully conducted Promotional/ Shakedown Flights between Kano, Abuja and Lagos today, 28th Nov 2020.

“This is part of the process to re-establish our devotion to handling long haul Flights with Airbus A340-600 according to Global Aviation Standard.”

The A340-600 was previously with Virgin Atlantic as G-VYOU, also known as Emmeline Heaney. It arrived with Virgin brand new in August 2006 but was withdrawn from use in mid-2019. In February this year, it was flown to Kano from Bournemouth in the UK to begin its new life with Azman Air.

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Why two business class seats?

When the A340 was in service with Virgin, it was fitted out with a typical Virgin layout. It sported 45 Upper Class seats in a rather odd three across configuration, followed by 38 premium economy seats. Back in economy, there was capacity for 225 passengers.

Azman has kept the rear cabins the same, still with Virgin purple seats in place. The premium economy and Upper Class cabins have been refitted with standard economy seats in a variety of colors, making for a total of 411 economy class seats. In addition to this, there are just two business class seats, situated at the front and in the middle of the economy class cabin.

Azman Air A340
Just two business class seats. Photo: Azman Air

It’s a pretty strange arrangement, and has drawn much speculation as to the reason why. Some thought that perhaps it was to give executives and VIPs a way to fly that was better than economy, others that it was a move to ensure it got landing rights in countries where business class is a must (see this post from One Mile At A Time for more info on that!).

The real reason is probably much less dramatic, and relates to certain regulations about long-haul flights. EASA and the FAA specify that flights over a certain distance require a Class 3 crew rest onboard. Class 3 is a reclining seat, whereas Class 2 involves a curtained off lie-flat seat, and Class 1 is a proper rest area away from passengers.

Azman Air A340
Further back, the aircraft still looks very Virgin. Photo: Azman Air

Installing a Class 3 rest area would allow crew to operate up to 15 hours straight through, letting the airline fly further. With Hajj flights to places like Jeddah some five to six hours away, this facility would be necessary to make the flights work.

Nevertheless, while it’s operating the A340 on shorter services, the airline may well sell these seats. The occupants would have to brave the furrowed brows of their co-travelers though, as there is no curtain or other separation from the main economy cabin.