Nigeria’s Arik Air has cited infrastructure constraints that have held back traffic growth as the main reason why it has moved to convert its order for two Boeing 747-8s to 777-300ERs.
Chief executive Michael Arumemi-Ikhade tells Flightglobal Pro during the Dubai air show that the airline re-evaluated its fleet needs and found that the 777 would be a better fit for the carrier over the short term.
“When we looked at it what we need now is more capacity the size of a 777 which is why we have gone towards working to convert the 747 into the 777 product so that we can at least use that on our London Heathrow operation and to South Africa,” he says.
Arumemi-Ikhide maintains that the 747-8 is still a “fantastic product” and it could still add it to its fleet in the future.
“We still fully believe that the west African market is certainly right for a jumbo for an indigenous carrier,” he says. “What needs to happen really is that the traffic flows need to be developed and have connectivity first.”
He adds that a number of airports in West Africa, including its Lagos hub, have yet to develop terminals capable of handling transfer traffic that would support a larger aircraft, and as such require a great deal of investment from both the private and government sectors.
Asked whether Arik would also consider the newly launched 777X series or the Airbus A380 for its future fleet needs, Arumemi-Ikhide hints that it would be more likely to stick with a Boeing aircraft.
“Obviously an installed base has a favourable view from our perspective, so the Boeing product is a natural that we would give them first priority and first look-in as we expand.”