High expectations as Air Peace sets for long-haul operations
Following dismal outing of local carriers on the international routes, Air Peace Airlines is set to foray into the long-haul operations, and on its wings are high expectations from stakeholders.
The airlines, besides flying the Nigerian flag, also avails competitive options for Nigerian travellers.
Air Peace will operate into six routes: Dubai and Sharjah to start with, and then followed by London, Houston, Guangzhou-China, Mumbai, and Johannesburg, using four Boeing 777 aircraft type.
Air Peace, the leading carrier in terms of capacity and passenger traffic, is making bold entry into the routes where Virgin Nigeria, Arik Air, and Med-View Airlines Plc, fell out of favour, partly due to capacity issues or aviation politics of their hosts.
Recall that Air Peace, in January completed the mandatory demonstration flights, travelling through Sharjah, South Africa, Dakar, Kano, Port Harcourt and Free Town, with officials of the airline and Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) onboard.
As at the last check, The Guardian confirmed that all was set for the final approval, except for two grey areas that were identified at a meeting between the airline and NCAA officials, a fortnight ago.
Corporate Communications Manager of the airlines, Chris Iwarah, said the operation was 95 per cent set, even as the airline was good to go, once NCAA gives the final approval.
Iwarah said expectations from Nigerian carriers are high, coming from both Nigerians and global aviation community.
“So, it is not about Air Peace, but about Nigeria. The regulatory authorities are aware of that and pushing to ensure that things are properly done.”
“Already we have the approval to go to Sharjah and Dubai; they are waiting for us. So, very soon, we would be there.”
Iwarah added that contrary to reports, Air Peace has not altered its plan to commence Sharjah and Dubai services from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, because the airport is strategic to the launch for its international flight operations.
“As we have variously promised, we will eventually expand our international operations to cover other cities and regions of Nigeria and even the West Coast of Africa. The goal ultimately is to leverage our broad domestic and regional route network in offering the flying public a reliable alternative. This will be clearer as our long-haul route network unfurls,” he said.
Med-View Airlines Plc, early 2018, suspended its Lagos-London and Lagos-Dubai operations. The Dubai operations had barely operated for three months, before effects of a bad leasing deal began to tell. Its recent acquisition of B777-200ER aircraft has not helped the airline’s fortunes.
Similarly, Arik Air “temporarily” suspended the international routes – London, New York and Johannesburg – following its internal crisis that led to its takeover by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) about two years ago. The airline has not return till date.
Stakeholders are, however, excited that Air Peace would restore Nigerian pride and competitiveness in international aviation, notwithstanding the huddles.
Aviation Consultant, Chris Aligbe, said Air Peace on the Dubai route would be a welcome development, though with the hope that the carrier would learn from the misfortunes of its forerunners.
Aligbe recalled that the defunct Nigeria Airways, in its’ hey days, opened the Lagos-Dubai route before the likes of Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Emirates began to venture.
After Nigerian Airways was liquidated, Virgin Nigeria, Arik and Med-View all tried, but pulled out “while the likes Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya and even RwandAir continued to operate on the route.”
“But why not a Nigerian carrier? Honestly, I pray that Air Peace would learn from the mistakes of other operators, and draw great lessons in order not to fall into the traps.”
Aligbe, an apostle of national carrier, said one carrier representative is inadequate for Nigeria, but needs one or two more strong carriers for effective coverage.
“For me, Air Peace can be that very strong airline, to put an end to the insults and humiliations coming from airlines like Emirates. They (foreign carriers) are doing that because they have no competition. Air Peace’s entry into the route is a welcome development. Once there is competition on these routes, those (foreign) airlines would stop abusing their dominant position,” he said.
President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Bernard Bankole, said Air Peace stands a chance of succeeding, “if they would stop working in isolation.”
“Air Peace does not want to work with NANTA; they do not believe they have to work with travel agents. The law of the land should compel them to do that. Are they not International Air Transport Association (IATA) certified airline?
“British Airways (BA) has five staff in Nigeria and they are flying Boeing747 everyday out of Nigeria. Does Air Peace sells as much as British Airways? Most of the BA’s businesses are done by the travel agencies. If BA could do its businesses through travel agencies, why not Air Peace?”
Bankole added that the government must also ensure more enabling environment for local operators to enhance their comparative advantage with their foreign counterparts.