United Airlines Sets Lagos Launch Date As It Expands In Africa

United Airlines has officially set its launch dates for flights to Lagos, Nigeria. The carrier’s return to the country after five years is a further expansion of the airline’s network in Africa, which has grown extensively this year. With flights set to launch on November 29th, the airline is making a play for traffic to the continent with more nonstop flights from the US.

United B787-8
United Airlines will launch flights to Nigeria on November 29th. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

United sets Lagos return date

United Airlines has announced that it will inaugurate nonstop services from Washington D.C.’s Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Murtala Muhammed International Airport (LOS) In Lagos, Nigeria, on November 29th. Subject to government approval, the airline is planning to operate three weekly flights between the two airports. Tickets for the route will go on sale this weekend when United loads its schedules.

Patrick Quayle, United’s vice president of international network and alliances, stated the following on the new flights:

“This new flight to Lagos has been highly anticipated by our customers and offers the first ever nonstop service between Washington, D.C. and Nigeria, as well as convenient, one-stop connections to over 80 destinations throughout the Americas including Houston and Chicago. On behalf of all of United we’d like to offer our sincere thanks to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and U.S. Department of Transportation for supporting our plans to provide this service.”

United will fly a Boeing 787-8 on the route. This aircraft will feature 28 lie-flat business class seats, branded as United Polaris, in a 1-2-1 configuration. Following this are 21 premium economy seats, branded as Premium Plus, in a 2-3-2 configuration. Lastly, there are 36 extra-legroom economy seats and 158 standard economy seats. These latter two are outfitted in a 3-3-3 configuration.

United Airlines Sets Lagos Launch Date As It Expands In Africa
United’s flights will offer the authentic Polaris experience for business class travelers. Photo: United Airlines

Not United’s first foray into Nigeria

In 2011, Continental Airlines launched nonstop service from its hub at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston, Texas, to Lagos. The initial service utilized a Boeing 777-200ER. After the merger with United Airlines and with the arrival of the Dreamliner, United put the Boeing 787 in service on the route.

However, in 2016, United ended the route. According to a report from 2016 in USA Today, United ended the route after a sustained lack of profitability and instead redeployed the aircraft on its San Francisco-Tel Aviv route. One of the critical issues was the airline’s inability to repatriate revenue sold locally in Nigeria. At the time, foreign airlines included United had an aggregate of $575 million stuck in the country from tickets sold locally.

United Airlines Sets Lagos Launch Date As It Expands In Africa
United exited Nigeria in 2016. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Now, United is coming back to Nigeria. Delta Air Lines flies two routes to Nigeria, one from its largest hub in Atlanta and a second flight from New York-JFK. United’s flights from Washington D.C. will be the only nonstop operation between Lagos and the US capital city.

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Expanding in Africa

United is continuing to grow in Africa. Earlier this year, United inaugurated two new nonstop flights to Africa. One was from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in South Africa. The second was from IAD to Accra’s Kotoka International Airport (ACC) in Ghana. Flights to Johannesburg operate on the Boeing 787-9 while Accra gets the 787-8. These two routes, plus Lagos, were announced at the same time in September 2020.

This December and January, pending government approval, United will turn its IAD-ACC flight from a three-weekly flight to a daily operation around the winter holidays. Separately, from December 1st, the airline plans to bring back its EWR to Cape Town International Airport (CPT) route, which will make it the largest airline between the US and South Africa.

United Airlines Sets Lagos Launch Date As It Expands In Africa
United’s Africa network this winter. Rendering created at Great Circle Mapper

Africa has typically been a market with a limited presence from US airlines. Delta previously had the largest presence in Africa. American does not currently operate any routes to the continent.

United is the only US airline that did not retire large widebody fleets in 2020. As such, come summer 2022, the airline expects to have 30 more widebodies than it did in 2019. This sets the airline up for major long-haul expansion, and Africa could see expanded service. For example, the airline could expand its Accra and Lagos services to operate more flights per week.

Are you going to fly United to Lagos? Let us know in the comments!

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