United Nigeria commences flight operations to Lagos, Abuja, 4 others
…as Enugu airport sees 600% surge in passenger traffic
United Nigeria, a new domestic airline with an operational hub in Enugu State commenced flight operations on Friday, connecting passengers from various states in Nigeria.
The airline which commenced operations with four aircraft will be operating to Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, Asaba, Owerri and Port Harcourt, while it plans to expand to other destinations soon.
This is as Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu is seeing a 600 percent increase in passenger traffic.
Speaking during the ceremony to mark the inaugural flight in Enugu, Obiora Okonkwo, chairman of United Nigeria, said he observed a gap in the industry which was one of the reasons the airline is making Enugu its operational hub.
Okonkwo said the airline is driven by service to the industry and service to mankind.
He said his short-term plans are to consolidate and establish all its routes, hinting that the airline hopes to expand beyond Nigeria, starting from the West Coast.
Speaking on how prepared the airline is for competition, Okonkwo said, “Well, we are in. I guess those who are in the business should be competing with us first. We should be the people they should be worried about because we are new. We think that within the next three months we shall be able to expand our routes.”
On projected growth of air traffic, the chairman said the market is huge and there is a need for a lot of aircraft.
“It might surprise you to know that we have a full load in all the routes we have operated this morning. Today is the first day of our service, so that is good and it shows what will happen,” he said on Friday.
Chika Adeyanju, station manager for United Nigeria, said the airline decided to use Enugu as its operational base because of the airline’s resolution to unite Nigeria and make a difference in the industry.
“We notice that most airlines have their operational base in Abuja, so we wanted to make a difference, and we decided to start from Enugu so that things will be normalised and equalised,” Adeyanju said.
She said air travel will continue to grow in Nigeria because it is easier for people to move from one place to another by air, adding that as more airlines spring up, it denotes healthier competition and better choices for passengers.
“We are United Nigeria, flying to unite. We want unity, peace and on-time travel. Our unique selling point will be safety and on-time departure,” Adeyanju said.
“We have four aircraft and some more will come soon. Since we are starting with domestic, it is viable for us to start with small aircraft. As time goes on, we will be having up to four or five flights into Enugu,” she said.
Cecilia Oguama, terminal manager, Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, said the airport management is happy that United Nigeria has commenced operations and assured that if the airline creates enough awareness, it would have enough passengers.
“The traffic in and out of the airport has increased tremendously. We are now having between 6,000 and 7,000 passengers weekly. Before COVID-19, we had less than 1,000 passenger traffic because we had only one airline then,” Oguama said.
“In 2019, we only had Air Peace operating but now we have four others operating regularly including United Nigeria Airline. We have close to eight flights daily and United Nigeria Airline has made Enugu their base, so they would enjoy tremendous support from the airport. Cargo movement has not started yet because the international terminal hasn’t opened for operations,” she said.
Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, governor, Enugu State, said the state government is excited to welcome United Nigeria Airlines to Enugu.
Ugwuanyi, who was represented by Malachy Okwueze, deputy chief of staff, Government House, congratulated the company, particularly the chairman of United Nigeria, for the giant feat.
“We are excited not only because United Nigeria is now flying into Enugu but particularly because Enugu is the hub for United Nigeria. Enugu is the best state that any business can thrive, it is a home of peace. It is the safest state in Nigeria,” Ugwuanyi said.
“I can assure you on behalf of the governor that you have not made any mistake to make Enugu your hub. Enugu State government will give you all the encouragement and we will continue to support you. We are glad to welcome you and we will continue to partner with you,” he said.