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Excitement Trails Air Peace Lagos-London Route Launch

Air Peace Chairman Onyema has emphasised the airline’s adherence to international standards and promises quality service, competitive pricing for passengers.

Aviation industry stakeholders and other Nigerians were excited on Saturday as over 260 passengers travelled with Nigeria’s major carrier, Air Peace, on its inaugural flight from Lagos to London, seven years after the last indigenous airline, Medview, operated this most lucrative international route.

Air Peace, which operated a Boeing 777 for its maiden flight, held a brief ceremony at the New Terminal of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport to celebrate the feat.

Speaking before he boarded the flight, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN), said the goal of President Bola Tinubu’s administration is to give full support to the Nigerian carriers to operate international destinations profitably and to help them acquire aircraft on dry lease and also pay less for aircraft insurance.

Keyamo noted that the Air Peace flight to London has forced foreign airlines to bring down fares and made the cost of tickets very competitive, adding that Nigerian carriers would serve Nigerian food and ensure comfort for passengers.

Also speaking, the Chairman and CEO of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, corroborated Keyamo’s revelation, saying that Air Peace flight to London has forced other international carriers to review downwards, their fares to that destination, noting that this has helped the appreciation of the naira because Air Peace sells its tickets in naira.

Keyamo said “With this flight, you have passenger comfort. I’m going to look out to see that Nigerian foods are served on air. A Nigerian airline will not serve foreign food but Nigerian food. Beyond passengers’ comfort, we are going to have competitive prices on international routes. We are seeing that already. Other airlines have opened up their lower fare tickets to Nigerians now because Allen has come in. 

“This is a very bullish approach to breaking the monopoly on this route. The UK has 21 slots into our country every week. BA alone has 14 weekly slots. So, Air Peace will compete on this level.

“The most important one is that there would be no problem of trapped funds because it is a local company; so, it won’t need to repatriate money through the CBN. The airlines that come to Nigeria – what we experience is massive repatriation of funds that puts pressure on the naira because they have to seek dollars to repatriate revenues earned from the sale of tickets. So, it eases the pressure on the naira because this is a Nigerian company that deals in naira.

“We are going to pray for Air Peace and pray for Allen that he can sustain this because he is doing this at great expense even at marginal profit and loss, but it is going to get better. We as a government must ensure that local carriers that want to embark on international flights must have access to aircraft on dry leases. If they don’t have it, it will be difficult to sustain international routes,” the minister said.

On his part, Onyema, assured Nigerians that the airline would maintain international standards on the route in terms of quality of equipment, in-flight service and food.

He also noted that the Air Peace flight to London has forced other international carriers to review their fares to that destination.

“Air Peace commencement of Lagos-London flight has forced international airlines to reduce fares from over N4 million to N1.8 million to N1.9 million. This event has saved this country billions of naira in the last three weeks. It has also helped in improving the value of the naira against the dollar. These foreign airlines were charging exorbitant fares and had so much money in their hands. They took this money to go to the market to look for dollars, putting a strain on the naira. 

“But now we are doing this flight and people are paying what they are supposed to pay and there is less demand for dollars because fewer naira now is chasing the dollar and the dollar is coming down. So, Air Peace has also contributed in bringing the naira to dollar rate down, enabled by the measures put in place by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

“I thank the president and his team. We are being supported. Festus Keyamo, the Minister of Aviation, went with us to the UK when they were almost frustrating us with slots. Today, he is here. They have given us that support. I paid for hangar space in 2016 and eight years down the line, we haven’t seen the hangar.  

Kuku (Mrs. Olubunmi), who is now the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria’s (FAAN) Managing Director and the minister are working tirelessly to make sure that in the next two weeks, we have our land. This is the kind of support airlines are asking for. If you don’t support indigenous investments, the country will go down,” he said.

On her part, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Doris Uzoka-Anite, described the feat by Air Peace as the convergence of innovation, determination, and unwavering commitment to excellence. 

“Nigeria has needed a local airline flying directly to the UK for a number of years. Air Peace proudly wears the badge of Made-in-Nigeria. It is a symbol of our collective effort to showcase our capabilities to the world. From the skilled hands that maintain the aircraft to the warm smiles of the cabin crew, every aspect of Air Peace reflects the spirit of our nation. 

“Let us reflect on the economic impact of this flight. Air Peace’s presence in London is not merely about arrivals and departures; it is about trade, investment, and collaboration. By choosing Air Peace, you choose to invest in Nigeria. You choose to empower local businesses, create jobs, and strengthen our economy.

“In December 2023, the UK exported £185million goods to Nigeria and imported £154million goods, resulting in a negative trade balance of £30.8million. This is a trend we wish to change in Nigeria’s favour and an additional trade route is a major step in the right direction,” she said. 

Also speaking, the Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, Professor Obiora Okonkwo who travelled with the flight, said that it was a dream come true for Air Peace and Nigerian carriers.

He commended the federal government, especially Keyamo for the efforts he made to enable British authorities to resolve final flight issues with Air Peace and also praised him for the effort he is making to enable Nigerian carriers to lease aircraft in the long term.

On aircraft leasing and access to forex for Nigerian carriers, Okonkwo said, “I do not see the reason why modern-day operators should suffer the sins of the old-time operators because any lessor will tell you that there have been some violations in the past. Today we are not violating any lease arrangements but we are rather victims,” he added.

Fielding questions from journalists, the acting Director General of the Nigeria Airspace Management Authority (NCAA), Captain Chris Najomo, said the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, NCAA and many other Nigerians contributed to what has become a reality, noting that Air Peace is now a Nigerian project.

Chinedu Eze

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