Q&A: United Approach to African Expansion

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What is the nature of your work and what are your goals?

My focus is to ensure that the new United provides the very best service to our customers across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India. I am particularly excited about the expansion of our route network in Africa.

How has the recent partnership between United and Continental Airlines been able to improve both the input and output of the combined airlines?

The new United has a wonderful opportunity to build a best-of-both-worlds structure with the most accomplished professionals in the industry. We have the largest and best route network of any airline in the world which, together with our membership of Star Alliance, provides more choice and better connectivity to our customers. Effective scheduling means our customers reach their destinations quicker. We are working hard to align our products and procedures, choosing the best from both carriers to offer improvements to our customers. 

United Airlines started flying to Nigeria late last year. How has the airline adapted to the Nigerian aviation environment?

We are pleased to be able to serve the Nigerian market with our daily flight from Lagos. Through our Washington/Dulles hub we are able to offer our African customers a fantastic network of destinations across North America. In November this year we will further expand our offering to Nigerian travellers with the launch of a non-stop service between Lagos and our Houston hub, the first daily non-stop service between Africa and Texas.

What special services and products does United Airlines offer that distinguishes it from the other global operators and international carriers in Nigeria?

United’s flights between Lagos and Washington/Dulles are conveniently timed to provide connections to and from dozens of cities across North America. Our efficient schedule and convenient overnight flights in both directions are attractive to those travelling on business. With this operation, we offer our combined United/Continental 90 million frequent flyers and global corporate accounts, access to one of the most important business cities in Africa and the hub of West Africa.

What special on-ground and onboard services and technology does United have to offer business travellers?

We offer our business travellers on-ground services such as priority check-in and boarding, as well as access to our lounges in departures and arrivals. Onboard, we offer business customers our new 180 degree lie-flat seat, which has a-state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment system with 150 hours of programming on-demand. The seat also offers an individual 15.4-inch video screen, noise-reducing headsets and iPod connectivity.

Are there plans to expand your network and services to other African countries apart from Ghana and Nigeria?

Africa is an enormously important market with truly exciting potential. We study market developments continually, with a view to identifying new opportunities.

Is the Nigerian aviation pie big enough for the likes of United and Delta airlines?

We are confident that our Lagos-Houston service will be a success and will complement our Lagos-Washington/Dulles service. It will be the first daily non-stop service between Africa and Texas. Houston is the world’s energy capital and a popular destination for energy-related business travellers from Lagos, and has a large Nigerian community. We also have the advantage of operating a hub at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, offering non-stop onward connections to more than 100 destinations throughout North, Central and South America and the Caribbean.