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Virgin Atlantic scales down Nigeria workforce, sacks Lagos cabin crew, moves communications unit to South Africa
There are indications that UK mega carrier, Virgin Atlantic Airways, may have pulled out of Nigeria, sacking all Nigerian cabin crew and closed down its call centre.
But spokesperson of the airline in Nigeria, Kudirat Scott-Igbene, argued that the airline was only closing down its crew base in Lagos as it would no longer be required for its Lagos route.
"We have decided that we will no longer have crew based in Lagos. This is by no means a reflection on our Lagos based cabin crew, the primary purpose of our locally based cabin crew has been to provide cultural expertise, and customer feedback has shown us that this is no longer a requirement on the Lagos route.
"The additional complexity required to operate an international crew base where there are no foreign language requirement means it is no longer sustainable going forward," she said.
Scott-Igbene also noted: "This announcement has no impact on our flying programme and we plan to continue flights between Lagos and London. After 14 years flying the route, we remain committed to servicing the Nigerian people, whether it be for business, family or education."
But informed source insisted that the airline is actually withdrawing its operations from Nigeria and had started the process few years ago.
Some months ago, the airline moved its communications and human relations department from Nigeria to South Africa, an action that infuriated its ardent customers.
The report also insisted Virgin Atlantic Airways has laid off all its Nigerian cabin crew and were only given three weeks' notice and no severance package regardless of their length of service would be paid.
According to the reports, the air hostesses the airline sacked were about 20 and last year, they closed down their Nigerian call centre and dismissed all the Nigerian staff.
The Chairman of the company, Richard Branson, had said sometime in 2012, he was weary about doing business in Nigeria.
Here is an extract from a statement Richard Branson issued in 2012 in reaction to the failed Virgin Nigeria project, which it partnered Nigeria to establish.
"We fought daily battle against government agents who wanted to daily make fortune from us, politicians who saw the government 49 per cent as a meal to seek for all kinds of favour...watchdogs (regulatory body) that didn't know what to do and persistently asking for bribes at any point...Nigerian people are generally nice but the politicians are very insane...that may be irony because the people make up the politicians.
"But those politicians are selfish...we did make N3 billion for the Federal Government of Nigeria during the joint venture...realising that the government didn't bring nothing to the table/partnership except dubious debts by the previous carrier, Nigeria Airways...The joint venture should have been the biggest African carrier by now if the partnership was allowed to grow, but the politicians killed it...Nigeria is a country we shall never consider to doing business again."
Perhaps the final decision to pull out of Nigerian may not be unconnected to the fact that the business class market is shrinking in the country as the new administration led by Muhammadu Buhari has tightened the noose around corruption and lack of transparency both in government and in business, so there is no more free monies at the behest of top politicians and businessmen and women.
The consequence of this development is that Virgin Nigeria Airways, which thrives in its luxurious business cabin may have lost significant load factor and has seen in the horizon that the glory days of flaunting exorbitant taste by Nigerians is over.
Besides, Medview Airline, a Nigerian carrier has just announced that from November 20 it would start flights to London, thus making the route more competitive.
Source - THISDAY
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