• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Air Peace: Wearing the badge of ‘Made in Nigeria’ on London route

Air Peace’s path to success: Strategies for dominance on the Lagos-London route

Air Peace, Nigeria’s largest carrier, recently made a historic flight with its inaugural journey from Nigeria to London.

At a time when the country is suffering from scarce foreign exchange, which has put pressure on the naira and has led to increase in airfares on international routes, Air Peace has become respite for air travellers, with its commencement of Lagos-London flight.

Last week, Nigeria celebrated more than just a flight; it celebrated the ingenuity of the Nigerian people. Nigeria had long needed a local airline flying directly to the UK.

The successful landing of Air Peace’s Boeing 777 at Gatwick Airport marked a monumental occasion for Nigeria, with the airline making headlines both at home and abroad. What set this flight apart was not just the flight itself, but the all-Nigerian crew on board, including the pilots, a senior first officer, and a captain.

Air Peace proudly wears the badge of ‘Made in Nigeria.’ It is a symbol of the country’s collective effort to showcase its 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 the nation.

Beyond its economic implications, the launch of Air Peace’s London route carries cultural significance, as it reintroduces authentic Nigerian cuisine to international travellers. Passengers can now savor the flavours of home with dishes like Nigerian pepper soup and jollof rice, offering a taste of nostalgia at 30,000 feet

The Lagos-London flight represents not only a triumph of innovation and determination but also a testament to the nation’s potential on the global stage. As Air Peace soars on its newly launched daily Lagos-London flight, experts say it carries with it the hopes and aspirations of a nation united in its pursuit of excellence.

With a capacity of 274, the aircraft accommodated 260 passengers on its maiden voyage, symbolizing the eagerness and enthusiasm of Nigerians to connect with the world.

Among the passengers was Festus Keyamo, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, whose presence underscored the government’s commitment to supporting local operators while upholding best industry practices.

On the inaugural flight were also the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, distinguished Senators, House of Representatives members and prominent celebrities spanning all walks of life.

Revitalising the Nigerian economy

Stakeholders in the aviation sector have said there is a multiplier effect of the airline’s Lagos-London flight on the Nigerian economy.

Doris Uzoka-Anite, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment said 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,” Uzoka-Anite said.

She explained that in December 2023, the UK exported £185 million to Nigeria and imported £154 million, resulting in a negative trade balance of £30.8 million, adding that this is a trend she wishes to change in Nigeria’s favour and an additional trade route is a major step in the right direction.

Festus Keyamo, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development stressed that the commencement of the Lagos-London route signifies the dawn of a new era, promising increased connectivity and economic benefits for Nigeria.

Keyamo said with Air Peace’s operations, there would be no problem of trapped funds because it is a local company that will not have 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 for dollars to repatriate from the sale of tickets. So, it eases the pressure on the naira because this is a Nigerian company that deals in naira,” he added.

Reduction in fares

BusinessDay had earlier reported that Air Peace’s maiden flight to London which commenced on March 30, 2024 was already fully booked a week after the airline opened booking. Nigerians who had since sought cheaper tickets to London had jumped at the opportunity.

The airline had pegged its economy class ticket at N1.2million, thereby slashing fares on the route.

According to the airline, a return economy class ticket goes for N1.2 million naira while a Return Business Class Ticket sells for N4 million naira, adding that Nigerians studying in the UK could access their special 15 percent rebate on the already reduced economy fares.

Sindy Foster, principal managing partner, Avaero Capital Partners told BusinessDay that the increase in seats/capacity by the addition of daily direct flights to London and the competitive fares Air Peace is charging is having a big impact on competitor fares.

Keyamo, the minister of aviation said beyond passenger comfort, Nigeria has started seeing competitive prices on international routes.

“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,” he said.

Allen Onyema, chairman Air Peace Airlines said the airline’s commencement of Lagos-London flight has forced international airlines to reduce fares from over N4 million to N1.8million to N1.9million.

“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 have done this flight and people are paying what they are supposed to pay, there is less demand for dollars because fewer naira are now chasing the dollar and the naira has come down.

“So Air Peace has also contributed in bringing the naira to dollar rate down, this is also with measures put in place by Presidential Bola Ahmed Tinubu,” he said.

BusinessDay’s findings show that a one way economy class ticket from Lagos to London on British Airways which cost N3 million for Economy and N11 million for Business Class has dropped to N1.7million for economy and N6.8million for Business Class.

On Lufthansa, a one way economy class ticket from Lagos to London which also cost about N3 million and N9 million for Business class now cost N2 million for economy class and N7 million for Business Class.

On Virgin Atlantic, the same destination which cost about N2 million for Economy, N5 million for Economy Premium and N12 million for Business Class now cost N1.5 million for Economy, N3 million for Premium and N6 million for Business Class.

Patronage

To grow the aviation sector, the Nigerian economy and the Nigerian airline, passengers have been encouraged to fly Air Peace.

“Your choice to fly with Air Peace is a vote of confidence. Air Peace has a commendable safety record, they hold a seven out of seven safety rating according to Airline Ratings and the airline has successfully undergone the International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certification four times, signifying its commitment to rigorous safety standards,”Uzoka-Anite said.

She called on all potential passengers to trust Air Peace to carry them safely across continents. “to remember that you are part of a movement that encourages Nigerians to patronise their own.”

“Let us be ambassadors in the skies, sharing stories of our rich heritage, our vibrant culture, and the warmth that defines us,” she added.

Chris Najomo, the acting Director-General Civil Aviation, insisted that for indigenous airlines to succeed on any international routes, it was necessary for the government to adopt the Fly Nigeria Act for public officials.

Also, he promised that the apex regulatory body would support Air Peace and other indigenous airlines to succeed on international routes unlike in the past.

FG’s support for success

Stakeholders have said that for Air Peace to be successful on the new route, government support is needed.

Some of the support needed according to stakeholders are implementing the right policies, support in aero politics and provision of foreign exchange as at when due

Obiora Okonkwo, Chief Executive Officer, United Nigeria Airlines, said airlines are faced with a challenge in aircraft leasing and access to equipment.

Okonkwo said the policy needs to be addressed, adding that it is the business of the operators to go and source the aircraft but there are areas in terms of policy that needs to be addressed.

“I do not see the reason why modern day operators should suffer the sins of the old time operator 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.

“Also, there must be a window for foreign exchange because when you lease an aircraft, there are specific days of the month you must be able to pay what has been accrued. But if you are left alone as an airline to be looking for foreign exchange in the open market like any other importer, you probably will miss the deadline. So if we sign our lease agreements, let us submit it to CBN and the banks and let them guarantee us,” he explained.

Allen Onyema said all he needs to sustain the Lagos-London route is massive government support.

“We have the minister of aviation travelling on our inaugural flight to London. We have a minister of trade and industry, a minister of foreign affairs, and Senator Ifeanyi Ubah here. We have a senate committee chairman on aviation also travelling on this flight. Nigerian government officials are on this flight. This is a Nigerian project.

“This is what I have been clamouring for. The Nigerian government and people have shown that this is a Nigerian project. Air Peace does not belong to Allen Onyema but it belongs to over 220 million Nigerians who are here and abroad.

“This flight is sold out because we are charging the right fares. In what we are doing, we must not fall short of giving the right services. We must not fall short of bringing the right equipment. Like I have always said, Air Peace is not new on the international arena,” Onyema said.