Would it be transition problems? On Saturday October 10, 2009 Nigeria Eagle Airlines - new in name, old in the business - failed woefully to keep its commitments to passengers. It kept its passengers stranded for hours with little or no explanation for the delay.
The baby eagle airline which recently transformed from a Virgin Nigeria Airline never kept that promise and failed to keep nervous, angry and eager passengers abreast of developments
Amongst passengers who were kept in suspense includes a visibly embarrassed Mr Frank Nweke, former Minister of Information and Communications who had to transfer to DANA Air in order to keep an official appointment in Lagos.
Dana Air and IRS Airlines made brisk business as angry passengers trooped to them after demanding refunds from Nigerian Eagle Airline.
Other not so famous faces amongst both locals and foreigners passengers were however not ready to accept Nigeria Eagle Airline deficiencies and prepared for a show down. In minutes, the departure lounge of the domestic terminal of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja became charged like a threatening thunderstorm. Passengers were charged and rumbling threats.
However, the diplomacy of Hajiya Ramotu mahmud, Consumer Protection Officer of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority saved the day. She deftly moved in to calm nerves and make promises on behalf of the airline.
Finally, the Abuja - Lagos 1700 hours scheduled flight took off by 1930 hours.
It would be recalled that the core investor and technical partner of Virgin Nigeria Airways had since withdrawn, necessitating the name change to Nigeria Eagle Airlines.
Chairman of the Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson, last year announced the withdrawal of his 49 per cent equity in Virgin Nigeria, a move which attracted 51 per cent investment by Nigerian investors.
New Chief Executive Officer of the airline, Captain Dapo Olumide explained that the new name was chosen to project the country’s image and pride, adding that the desire of the board and management was to build it into a brand.
“Virgin Nigeria Airways Limited, was a re-jigging of Nigeria Airways which went under. It operated scheduled international, regional and domestic passenger services with its hub at Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos.
After the exit of President Olusegun Obasanjo, President Yar'Adua's administration through the aviation ministry, ordered all airlines to stop using the international terminal of Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Ikeja, Lagos, for domestic flights. Other airlines complied with the exception of Virgin Nigeria.
The directive degenerated into a row between Richard Branson and the Federal Government of Nigeria. He accused the government of using “mafioso tactics” a reference to muscle men sent to demolish the Virgin Nigeria domestic desk inside the international terminal.
Government in turn accused him of “orchestrating negative propaganda”. Eventually, Virgin Nigeria moved. The fallout from that dispute is that on 19 August 2008, VirginAtlantic announced that it was “in talks to sell it’s 49 percent stake in Virgin Nigeria.”