• Thursday, June 20, 2024
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How Akwa Ibom is emerging as regional aviation hub

Ibom Air adds air bus to fleet, to become regional aviation hub

For any state or country to earn the status of aviation hub, it must invest and build three main components of aviation. These components are strong airlines that can compete globally, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility that can maintain and repair various aircraft types and a multi-purpose airport terminal that can move passengers from flight to flight.

Over the years, Akwa Ibom State through successive governments had invested in aviation with a tripod investment in Ibom Air, a world class regional airlines, the Maintenance Repair and Overhaul facility, (MRO) which is the first of it’s kind in West Africa and the new International Smart Terminal Building being constructed at the Victor Attah International Airport in Akwa Ibom State which is set to be an aviation game changer in Nigeria.

Passengers have continued to lament over airport experience in Nigeria, especially at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, (MMIA) Lagos, which continues to handle more passenger traffic than all other airports in Nigeria.

From the experience at the car park to infrastructure, walkways, security gates, check-in counters to offensive odour at the airport among others are list of experiences that discourage travel and passenger facilitation.

As passengers move from country to country, they experience better facilities that leave them yearning for such in their home country, Nigeria.

It will therefore be the pleasure of every average Nigerian traveller to have such experience in Nigeria and Akwa Ibom is taking the bull by its horns in not just building one of the most efficient airlines in Nigeria but the first multipurpose built terminal specifically designed to move passengers from flight to flight.

The new international Smart Terminal Building

The new International Smart Terminal Building being constructed at the Victor Attah International Airport in Akwa Ibom State is set to change the narrative of air travel in Nigeria with a focus on making passenger experience pleasant.

George Uriesi, chief operating officer, Ibom Air in an interview said the new terminal is a huge game changer to the industry and Nigeria, adding that this is the first multipurpose built terminal specifically designed to move passengers from flight to flight.

“You can arrive on a domestic flight and connect to an international flight and arrive from an international flight and connect to a domestic flight. You can also arrive on an international flight and connect to another international flight. You can arrive at the same terminal under the same airport experience which is world class and it all adds to the joy of travelling.

“We have a very poor airport experience that Nigerian passengers and visitors to Nigeria have experienced through our international airports over time. For this terminal, if you want to go to Johannesburg, you book a domestic flight out of Abuja and fly into Uyo to connect to Johannesburg. The airport experience you will get, will make you never want to fly out of any other airport,” Uriesi said.

He hinted that the effect of a beautiful transit point in Uyo is having a very nice and competition flight to wherever you are going to, under a very controlled environment.

“We are going to collaborate with all the security services. Any person that has anything to do with processing of passengers will be trained to make the experience through this airport a world-class experience like you find anywhere else you go to.

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“By providing this service through this game-changing terminal, we expect to build this a hub in West Africa that really has never been seen before,” the COO explained.

He hinted that despite the fact that Lome is a very small city in Togo, situating an airline and having a strategy similar to what Ibom Air is doing, Asky had been able to develop Lome into a huge hub.

He said last year, Asky processed about 1.2million passengers of which less than five percent were originating or terminating in Lome.

He said these passengers were all transferred passengers and the majority of them were Nigerians who had to go out of Nigeria to Lome to connect to other places.

He said this is the problem Akwa Ibom State is trying to solve by making the airport in Nigeria a modern one.

Ibom Air
With an on-time performance and modern fleet, Ibom Air has set the pace for healthy competition in the industry already.

Uriesi said the strategy of Ibom Air from the very beginning was hinged on being an airline that is sourced like any other competition airline.

“You have to go and compete in a very brutal environment with airlines that have hub terminals and MRO. That is the kind of story we are telling right here in Uyo.

“Our strategy to be able to build the world class African regional airline is our vision to provide a world class service such as passenger experience, the onboard experience of the passengers, the customer service element through buying of the ticket, the
check-in, arrival, delivery of bags amongst others,” Uriesi said.

He said the whole idea of the terminal and the MRO is to build a strong airline, just like any other competitive airline in the world.

“We will develop a business plan, execute it and we believe that if we do that in a very disciplined manner under very strong corporate governance rules which we have practiced from the beginning, then there is no reason why we won’t be a successful and competitive international standard African regional airline,” he added.

MRO

Akwa Ibom government plans to make its MRO a major MRO facility line people can find anywhere in the advanced world.

Akwa Ibom targets to become part of the Big Four in Africa among which are the MRO of South Africa Airways, the MRO of Ethiopian Airlines in Addis Ababa, and the facility of Egypt Air in Cairo

“The MRO is massive and can take two Boeing 747-800 standing side by side with the doors closed. In the same vein, it can take eight of our aircraft type, Airbus A220 at once and 10 of our other aircraft type, CRJ900.

“The MRO facility is very important for Nigeria and West Africa. It is the only facility of its type in the whole of West and Central Africa but more than that, it presents an opportunity for us to move into a different era in the industry in Nigeria because of all the facilities that it has.

“From wheels, aircraft brakes, tires and all the different shops; many of these things have not existed in Nigeria at this scale before. So, we have the opportunity to present this repair and overhaul maintenance facility to all the airlines in West and Central Africa,” Uriesi
explained.

He said through the MRO, they intend to create a centre of excellence that would allow them to provide the services that Nigerian airlines would have flown across the world to go and get.

“Most of our airlines go to Europe and pay millions of Euros to be able to maintain their airplanes. With this facility, we are now going to be able to provide maintenance for other airlines right here in Uyo.

“We are partnering with Airbus consulting, we have contracted them to partner with us to come and assess the facility which by the way, they are impressed with. They will help us develop a business plan for optimal use of this facility. We want to be able to maintain our fleet which are the A220 and CRJ900 and also to advise us on which fleet best we can get the most business out of.

“When we have that business plan, it allows us to know what to invest in, in terms of the capabilities of maintenance of which aircraft and target the right airlines to go after to offer our services to them,” the Ibom Air COO stated.