• Thursday, February 22, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

AirPeace Dubai flight set to shake up competition on route

AirPeace

The commencement of AirPeace’s flight to Dubai on Friday will ignite competition on the Lagos-Dubai routes, experts have said.

The airline, Nigeria’s largest carrier, is already seeing good patronage on its inaugural flight to Dubai as the airline offers passengers almost 53 percent slash in ticket price from its competitors.

Experts also envisage crash in price on the routes as Emirates Airline, the only airline that operates direct flight from Lagos to Dubai, is currently offering promos to passengers on the same routes.

Despite the promo price on Emirates, BusinessDay’s checks show that a return ticket on Lagos-Dubai route using high-end airlines such as Emirates and Qatar Airways costs between N310,000 and N400,000, whereas AirPeace is offering its passengers between N155,000 and N175,000 for a return ticket on the same route, representing a 53 percent price slash.

This huge reduction in ticket price is seeing summer passengers booking for tickets as AirPeace currently records almost 80 percent load factor on its first flight to Sharjah.

While AirPeace is not flying directly to Dubai like its competitor Emirates, it is making provision for a complementary bus to convey its passengers from Sharjah to Dubai which is within a space of 40 minutes. The airline is also leveraging its new aircraft, Boeing 777, the same aircraft Emirates also uses, to drive patronage on the route.

While AirPeace will operate three times weekly to Sharjah (Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays) from only Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Lagos, Emirates operates two daily flights from both MMIA and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

With the planned commencement of operations on this route, AirPeace would be offering travellers from Nigeria the opportunity of connecting 23 other destinations from the United Arab Emirates.

The destinations that could easily be connected from Sharjah international airport include Riyadh, Madina, Jeddah, Beirut, Delhi, Colombo, Dhaka, Mumbai, Kathmandu, Moscow and several others.

However, experts have raised concerns on whether the carrier will survive on the route, especially competing with well-established carriers such as Emirates and Etihad Airways.

Their doubts are coming after efforts by domestic carriers such as Medview and Arik on Dubai route failed in less than two years of operations. These domestic airlines were unable to sustain operations of international routes over lack of equipment, inadequate foreign exchange, unfriendly laws by host country and huge debts.

However, while admitting that he is aware that the challenges would be daunting, Allen Onyema, chairman, AirPeace, restated that the airline was well prepared to ride the storm.

“Before you go into any business, you need to study the business and the environment. You have to know that airline business, for example, is a risky one. What are the factors that have made many airlines in Nigeria to fall by the way side? You really need to know where you are coming from; where the other airlines are coming from and what has been responsible for their failure,” he said.

He revealed that AirPeace drew strength from the very strong support it continues to receive from its bank, Fidelity Bank, which he said “has been very supportive and it is because we pay back our loans”.

He said the airline’s driving force was to disprove the notion that Nigeria is a failure in the global airline industry.

“We have decided to make the difference. We want to prove that we are different and that we are a very resilient people in Nigeria. We have very resourceful people. They have not been given that opportunity to rise; we are also contending with international aviation politics that is trying to bring Nigerian airlines down,” he said.

“So, we decided to do things differently, both in the way we run our affairs and in the way we expand. We decided to acquire the single-aisle planes for our domestic operations and we have acquired the wide-body planes for our international long haul flights,” he added.

However, John Ojikutu, aviation security consultant and secretary general of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), thinks Sharjah is a wrong route to start with.

“Sharjar is a connecting point, not a hub. Which airline would AirPeace be partnering with? Can AirPeace compete in airfares with airlines on that route? Time will tell,” Ojikutu said.

“Whichever airline goes into code sharing may have to reduce its frequencies to Nigeria or to AirPeace’s final destination; at what cost to the airline or to Air Peace? Either way, the cost of airfares to the passenger will be the determinant factor,” he said.

He suggested that the best or only option for Nigerian carrier on international routes is direct to London or any state east coast or central state of US as these are the major routes of Nigerian travellers.

“Fifty percent of passengers on Middle East airlines are Europe- and US-bound. If you go Europe and US, you are in better standing than going east and you are very likely to reduce the 50 percent Europe and US-bound on the Middle East routes Going east as a start will be in competition with all Middle East airlines and east, and central African airlines for the remaining 50 percent,” he said.

“The question AirPeace needed to ask before venturing on the route is: out of the 2 million international outbound passengers from Nigeria, how many are eastbound beyond the Middle East? How many is it targeting to Middle East and beyond in the code sharing?” he asked.

 

IFEOMA OKEKE