Weird: United Nigeria Airlines Receives Government Approval To Fly To Houston

United Airlines used to fly from Houston to Lagos, Nigeria. Currently United operates the service from Washington Dulles.

Now United Nigeria wants to fly from Houston to Lagos, Nigeria. In fact, United Nigeria has received Nigerian government approval to fly to Amsterdam; Rome; Dubai; London; Houston; and Dublin.

United Nigeria was part of the announced ‘Spring Alliance’ meant to bring together six airlines in Nigeria and legitimize collusion and price-fixing amongst them.

Credit: Paslunitednigeria via Wikimedia Commons

The three year old airline with a hub at Enugu operates four Embraer ERJ-145, albeit the long range variant of these 50 seat regional jets. The aircraft has a published range of 1,550 nautical miles.

Houston – Lagos is 6,512 miles and requires ETOPS certification. Without a Mid-Atlantic refueling point, commercial operations are impossible. Island hopping still requires at least one flight segment that’s around 2,000 miles. And additional crew would be required given the distance and stops which would have to be involved.

While the government of Nigeria has authorized United Nigeria flights to Houston, I imagine that the FAA may have something to say about a three year old airline without any prior international experience, or experience operating the aircraft that they’d have to acquire, and no history of the sort of security protocols which would be required for U.S. operation.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I would presume, if flown, this would be an oil route, and would likely be operated by a third party under a lease agreement.

  2. The answer may be in the article. Gary writes that United Nigeria has Nigerian government approval for flights to Rome, Amsterdam, London, Dublin, etc.

    Consider Lagos – N’djamena, Chad (technical stop) – Tunis, Tunisia (technical stop) – Rome/Ciampino – Dublin – Keflavik, Iceland (technical stop on westbound) – Narsarsuaq, Greenland (technical stop) – Gander (technical stop) – Windsor, Ontario (technical stop) – Houston IAH.

    It might be like the old pre-jet era Pan Am where the plane stopped many times for refueling.

    If the airfare were low, some people would buy tickets for such 8 stop trip.

  3. If they fly the route I’m sure it’ll be a wet lease operation as Air Senegal does with JFK and Paris. HiFly, AirHub, etc., have plenty of lift and no routes for airlines with route authorities and no lift.

  4. ^ Mak is probably right but the multiple stop route using an Embraer EMB-145 is more fun to think about.

  5. Maybe it would be a lease and operate agreement. Nigeria is one of the world’s largest oil producing countries and Houston has a concentration of oil companies and oil technology. This is an obvious route for a lot of business class seats at high prices as a non-stop flight. It would be prestigious for the government of Nigeria to have such a route and Nigerians would probably consider it a plus to have Nigerian cabin crew members. Without competition from United it probably would work.

  6. Sounds like the Nigerian version of the old Houston Express operated by Sonair between Luanda and Houston. They operated what appeared to be antiquated 747s with angled biz class and awarded 5k UA miles per TATL segment.

    No way any sane person will fly this airline unless mandated by employer. And I don’t see NNPC having the leverage that Sonangol had

  7. UA pulled out of Nigeria after the Nigerian govt withheld payments. They got royally screwed and surprised the IAD flight is still going strong. I’m sure it would be a wet-lease just as we had the “Houston Express” to Luanda. That was an easy 25,000 RT UA miles at the time though each ticket was about $12k.

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