By Chika Goodluck-Ogazi
UNITED Continental Airlines has commenced its daily, non-stop flights operation service between Lagos from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport and Houston, Texas, United States of America.
It is the first daily, scheduled non-stop passenger service between Africa and Texas.
The flight would link Lagos with Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, United’s largest hub, from where the airline operates more than 600 daily non-stop flights to more than 130 destinations in the United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe and Asia.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by Princess Stella Ada Oduah, Minister of Aviation; Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye, Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S.; Joseph D. Stafford, U.S. Consul General, Lagos; Dr. Harold Demuren, Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority; George Uriesi, Managing Director and CEO, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria; Mazi Nnamdi Udoh, Managing Director and Chief Executive, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency; and Charles Duncan, United’s Vice President.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony in Lagos, United Vice President, Duncan said, “I am grateful to the Minister of Aviation, the Ambassador and everyone we have worked within Lagos and Abuja for their commitment to launching this service.”
He added that, “Houston is an important destination for both business travellers, particularly from the energy sector - and leisure traffic. At the same time, our Houston hub provides Nigerian travellers with fast and easy connections to destinations across the U.S. and throughout the Americas.
“The launch of this new route underlines the importance of the Nigerian market to United and we are confident that it will further strengthen commercial and cultural ties between the two nations”, he noted.
According to him, the 6,500-mile/10,460-km flight is operated with a Boeing 777 aircraft, featuring a total of 276 seats, 50 in BusinessFirst (business class) and 226 in Economy.
Duncan revealed that flying times are approximately 13 hours 20 minutes westbound and 11 hours 35 minutes eastbound. Depending on the season, the new service reduces travel time between the two cities by between three and four hours westbound and by about three hours eastbound by eliminating any connection en route, he added.
According to the airline, flight CO143 departs Lagos daily at 11:05 p.m., arriving in Houston at 5:25 a.m. the following day. The return flight, CO142, departs Houston daily at 7:05 p.m., arriving in Lagos at 1:40 p.m. the following day (all times local). The flight is timed to provide convenient connections at United’s Houston hub to more than 100 other cities throughout the U.S., Canada, Latin America and the Pacific.
The flights will feature new, flat bed seats in the BusinessFirst cabin. The seat, reclining 180 degrees and providing 6 feet 6 inches/1.98 meters of sleeping space in the fully extended position, is one of the widest business-class seats in the air, measuring up to 27 inches/68.5 cm when the adjustable armrest is positioned flush with the seat cushion. Electronic controls enable customers to easily move the seats to the custom position most comfortable for them. The seats provide more individual storage space for personal items. Laptop power, headset and USB plugs are conveniently tucked above the customer’s shoulder.
iPod connectivity allows each customer to view their personal videos and enjoy their music, all while their iPod is charging.
The seats feature 15.4-inch/39-cm video monitors for customers to enjoy on-demand movies, music and games, and have a privacy shell that allows for seclusion from other travellers.
In addition to the flat bed seat and a state-of-the-art personal in-flight entertainment system, BusinessFirst amenities include gourmet menu selections and an award-winning wine and champagne selection.
Economy class on the 777 is also comfortable and spacious, in a 3-3-3 seating configuration with wider-than-usual aisles. All seats on the Boeing 777 feature an Audio/Video On Demand (AVOD) in-flight entertainment system, which allows customers to choose from 250 movies, 300 TV shows and 3,000 audio tracks with a jukebox feature to make individual playlists. In addition, this entertainment system has 25 video games and the interactive Berlitz Word Traveller foreign language programme. The screens measure 9 inches in Economy and feature touch-screen or handset controls. All seat rows are equipped with in-seat power outlets, which do not require an adapter.
Customers in all cabins on flights departing Lagos will be able to choose Nigerian in-flight meals, including Nigerian pepper stew with fish, fillet of beef with peppercorn sauce and vegetarian options. United has appointed Lagos-based catering company ASL Airline Services