Nigeria's Federal Ministry of Aviation has approved Air Peace's plans to launch nonstop flights to New York. Nigeria's largest carrier is now awaiting approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before the service begins.
Why New York?
The New York City metropolitan area is home to around 35,000 Nigerian-Americans. The U.S. has approximately 400,000 residents of Nigerian descent. There is undoubtedly demand for a nonstop flight from New York to Nigeria. However, New York has struggled to keep a nonstop link to the country. Various airlines have tried and later cut their iterations of such a service.
In 2001, South African Airways (SAA) launched service from its hub in Johannesburg (JNB) to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) via Lagos (LOS) using a Boeing 747-400. This service was a codeshare agreement with Nigeria Airways, which had roughly one-third of the 747's seats reserved for passengers flying between Lagos and New York. SAA soon cut the Lagos stopover due to its lack of profitability.
This prompted Nigeria Airways to start its own Lagos - New York service with a leased Boeing 747-200. This service was cut in January 2003 as Nigeria Airways was dealing with its own problems. The carrier ceased operations that same year. Three years later, in 2006, North American Airlines launched a nonstop route from Lagos to JFK using a Boeing 767-300. This route was later cut in 2008.
The following year, in November 2009, Nigerian carrier Arik Air launched a new service from Lagos to JFK. This was operated using a leased Airbus A340-500, later switched to the A330-200. Arik Air suspended the JFK route in 2017 after its A330s were sent for heavy maintenance. While there was talk of the route resuming once the A330s returned to service, it never did.
Around this time, Arik Air was also dealing with debt and financial issues. These prompted the carrier to downsize significantly, eventually eliminating all widebody aircraft. The airline currently only operates narrowbody and turboprop aircraft. However, it has orders for nine Boeing 787-9s, which could help the airline restart JFK service. There has not been any official update from the airline regarding these plans.
Most recently, Delta Air Lines opened a route from JFK to Lagos in 2018 using the Boeing 767-300ER. The route operated continuously until the pandemic prompted its suspension in 2020. Delta resumed the JFK-LOS route in June 2022 but suspended it four months later. Delta continues to serve Lagos from its main hub, Atlanta (ATL), using the Airbus A330-200.
Nigeria maintains an "Open Skies Agreement" with the United States, an act that was signed in 2000. According to the agreement, "both countries gain unrestricted rights to transport passengers directly between the two countries, and from third countries on through routes to either the United States or Nigeria."
The agreement states that there are no limitations on the number of airlines each country's respective governments may designate to operate services between the two. This explains why so many carriers have operated between the U.S. and Nigeria in the past. Today, the only ways to fly from the U.S. to Nigeria are United Airlines from Washington Dulles (IAD) and Delta Air Lines from Atlanta (ATL).
Air Peace is a private Nigerian airline that was founded in 2013. It's currently the largest airline in Nigeria and all of West Africa. For long-haul flights, Air Peace's current longest route is to Mumbai, India (BOM). This flight is around nine hours in both directions. Aside from Mumbai, Air Peace has operated services to destinations like Guangzhou, China (CAN), along with Dubai (DXB) and Sharjah (SHJ) in the United Arab Emirates.
Air Peace has also operated a short-lived series of charter flights to St. John's (ANU) in Antigua and Barbuda. The carrier even talked about making this a regular service, but nothing has materialized. Nigeria's Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development recently approved Air Peace's request to operate flights to New York-JFK.
Air Peace's approval aligns with the aforementioned Open Skies Agreement between the United States and Nigeria. Currently, Air Peace is working with the FAA to complete the required documentation before launching the JFK route. Fleet-wise, Air Peace only has three widebody aircraft that could be used to start the JFK service. These consist of one Boeing 777-200ER (5N-BVE) and two 777-300s (5N-BUU and 5N-BWI). 5N-BUU is currently grounded in Lagos.
A flight from Lagos to JFK covers a distance of roughly 5,250 miles. Any of the three 777s could be used to operate the route nonstop. The two 777-300s that Air Peace has are the non-ER variants that can fly up to 6,910 miles nonstop. The 777-200ER (-ER meaning "extended range") can fly significantly further at 8,130 miles.
Air Peace has yet to highlight any plans to acquire newer widebody aircraft. The three 777s have an average age of 21 years. What will become of the FAA's talks with Air Peace remains to be seen. Nonstop service from Lagos to New York would return once again if approved.
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