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Cablegate: Continental Airlines to Fly to Nigeria?

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS ABUJA 001559

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

BRUSSELS, DAKAR, DOT FOR FAA

E.O. 12598: N/A
TAGS: EAIR EINV PGOV NI ETRA
SUBJECT: Continental Airlines to Fly to Nigeria?

1. (U) This is an action message. See paragraph 7.

2. (U) Ambassador, EconCouns and Econoff met with
Chris Amenechi of Continental Airlines and
Continental's Nigerian law firm, George Etomi &
Partners, on September 7 at the Ambassador's office.
Amenechi provided documents to the Ambassador
confirming Continental's U.S. authorization to operate
regularly scheduled service between Lagos, Nigeria and
the United States during two years (docket OST-2004-
18874).

3. (SBU) Amenechi said the next step should be the
Ambassador's support of its application with the
Nigerian authorities to conduct such flights by April
2005. Continental suggests that the Ambassador seek an
appointment for Continental's senior leadership with
President Obasanjo, at which the Ambassador might be
present. Following this high-level attention and the
President's support, Continental would then pursue the
matter at the working level at the Foreign Ministry and
the Ministry of Aviation. Continental hopes to receive
GON approval soonest and begin operating on a daily
basis in April 2005.

4. (SBU) Ambassador noted the need for us to first
receive instructions from the Department of State
before we make a demarche to the Foreign Ministry.
Amenechi replied that such instructions would be cabled
to the Embassy without delay. Following consultations
with the Department, the Embassy would make
representations on behalf of Continental, the
Ambassador said.

5. (SBU) Some discussion ensued whether Continental's
right to fly between Lagos and the United States, and
Virgin Eagle's announcement that it would soon be
offering such service, might become linked in the minds
of GON officials. Ambassador and EconCouns noted this
is possible, given that the new Nigerian carrier's
technical partner is Virgin Atlantic. As noted in
septels, given the state of the U.S.-UK bilateral civil
air relationship, it is highly unlikely that the new
Nigerian carrier, effectively operated by Virgin
Atlantic, will be allowed to land in the United States
in the foreseeable future.

6. (U) Amenechi and his lawyers countered by saying
that Obasanjo is so keen about gaining U.S. investment
that he will not establish such a linkage; to the
contrary, he is likely to champion Continental's cause,
they said. Continental estimates it will initially
invest $3 million in Nigeria and spend $22 to $23
million annually on operating costs.

7. (SBU) Action requested: We request Department
guidance on whether to plead Continental's case at
senior level, preferably (per Continental's request) at
Presidential level at this time. Please also send us
notice that Continental Airlines is a U.S. designated
carrier for purposes of flights between the United
States and Nigeria, in keeping with our Open Skies
agreement.

Campbell

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