In the absence of a national carrier, Nigerian airlines with little or no support from the government are gradually making their footprints known in other countries.
Amid obvious aero politics and high dollar exchange rate squeezing their operations, some airlines are already making plans to commence regional and international flights with acquisition of modern aircraft.
With these new acquisitions, the airlines are gradually getting ready to fly the Nigerian flag, provide more jobs and connect people, cultures and businesses across continents.
Air Peace for instance continues to represent the country in other regions and countries, as it currently flies to South Africa and some regional destinations, thereby representing the country in the countries it flies to.
In about six years of operations, Air Peace airline has proven to be a credible partner in project Nigeria. Allen Onyema, the Chairman of Air Peace has demonstrated the nexus between indigenous company and national development.
Onyema has proven that an indigenous airline through one man’s passion and sheer determination can birth an indigenous airline of our dreams.
When it appears all hope has been lost that an indigenous airline in Nigeria can achieve steady success, sustainability, excellence and growth, Onyema has somewhat rekindled this collective hope and aspiration.
Seyi Adewale, CEO, Mainstream Cargo Limited said marking six years of progressive growth in the Nigerian airline business; Air Peace Limited has crossed the first median hurdle of six years judging from 61 defunct airlines as at date although the mean longevity is nine years
Furthermore, the airline has commendable records to national growth and stability through the number of employees in their thousands and indirect jobs created also in thousands, Adewale said.
The airline further contributes to national development through the total amount of taxes, levies, charges and fees paid to the relevant federal government ministries, agencies, and departments, he added.
The airline saves Nigeria’s FX outflows through its regional and international flights, as managing the nation’s FX outflow has been a recent concern of the government.
With the proposed major hub and MRO the airline targets in the near future, skill acquisition, knowledge transfer, further FX outflows is conserved and achieved to the benefit of the nation.
Arrival of four Embraer 195-E2 aircraft
As part of its plans to expand domestic, regional and international operations, Air Peace recently received its 4th Embraer 195-E2 aircraft.
The airline would receive additional three brand new 195-E2 aircraft which would join the airline fleet before the end of 2021, as it plans to also take delivery of all the 13 Embraer 195-E2 aircraft it placed firm order for from Embraer Aircraft Manufacturing Company in Brazil by the end of 2022.
The airline says it wants to make connectivity easy for Nigerians by interconnecting all cities in Nigeria so as to energize the country and provide jobs, noting that the 195-E2 plane can land where Boeing 737 cannot land because if it’s unique technology.
“We have increased connectivity and additional destinations. We are doing Port Harcourt, Asaba –Kano, Benin-Port Harcourt. We have started Lagos-Douala and we are going to connect to other destinations in West and Central Africa,” the airline’s chairman explained.
Air Peace had earlier set a domestic record as the first Nigerian airline to acquire and register the Boeing 777 aircraft in the country.
Three of the four wide-body aircraft it acquired for its long-haul operations to Dubai, Sharjah, Johannesburg, London, Houston, Guangzhou and Mumbai had so far been delivered.
The airline had in 2019 commenced the Dubai route but was awaiting landing permits from other international countries before the compulsory lock down, making it impossible for airlines to continue scheduled international operations.
Seyi Adewale said that through the leadership of Onyema, the airline has been able to achieve relatively good safety records by maintaining its International Air Transport Association (IATA) IOSA certification.
“The airline has also acquired four brand new Embraer aircraft into its fleet which is the first of its kind in recent time, maintains financial integrity with its bankers, has an enviable flight route and spread within Nigeria, and achieved entry into regional and international routes,” Adewale said.
Air Peace helped in the evacuation of hundreds of Nigerian nationals from South Africa free of charge in the wake of rising xenophobic attacks against fellow Africans.
Air Peace helped deliver the first batch of medical supplies in the fight against the spread of Coronavirus pandemic and for the treatment of those who are infected.
The airline also took delivery of the second batch of medical supplies and personnel from China.
Air Peace evacuated about 210 Israelis from Nigeria to Tel-Aviv on March 29, 2020, evacuated about 301 Chinese from Lagos airport to Guangzhou, China on May 28, 2020, and also evacuated 286 Indians to Kochi from Lagos on May 31, 2020 during the rising cases of COVID-19 world-wide.
For the three countries to engage Air Peace to carry out the evacuation exercise speaks volumes about the level of confidence they have on the airline and its safety standards, which has been attested to by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certification of our airline.
Olumide Ohunayo, aviation analyst commended Air Peace because during the trying period, the carrier acted as the airline for backup, as it took the role of the national carrier by evacuating Nigerians from South Africa at a time when there was virtually no airline that could do it.
Ohunayo also recalled that during the COVID period, he kept Nigerian flags flying in the airspace as the airline is currently the only domestic carrier flying outside Nigeria.
“No doubt, Onyema has brought some positivism into the aviation industry. Right now, they have set the bar. They are the flagship of Nigerian aviation at the moment and I hope they can sustain it. I look forward to him expanding ownership involving more Nigerians so we can see it as a carrier for the people than an individual airline.
“In spite of all the hindrances and obstacles in front of the airlines, he is able to still move beyond our shores and he still keeps improving the quality and quantity of the aircraft and employing more people,” he said.
Sponsorship of national football teams
Air Peace recently signed a sponsorship deal worth N300 million with the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), on Wednesday, making it the official airline sponsor of Nigerian national teams.
Allen Onyema said the deal is for four years but will commence within one year, after which it will be renewed.
The airline’s boss said he decided to go into the partnership because he sees Nigeria as one, and deals such as this go a long way in promoting unity among Nigerians.
Onyema disclosed that the airline has also been sponsoring some local clubs in Anambra State, expressing readiness to partner with more leagues in Nigeria.
Olumide Ohunayo said his support for Nigeria’s national team is commendable as some airlines across the world have their logos on the jerseys and shirts of football clubs, adding that this should also be replicated in Nigeria.
“I also expect to see more improvements to sustain his leadership and as airlines are coming into the country, he should begin to look at partnerships or mergers with airlines that have the same vision and systems with him so he can get bigger,” Ohunayo added.
Sponsorship of Guilder Ultimate
In addition to its other partnerships, Air Peace recently collaborated with Gulder Ultimate Search, Nigerian Breweries Plc, on its 12th season of the survival reality show.
The unique collaboration will see the Nigerian foremost airline join forces with Gulder Ultimate Search to reward the winner and contestants with exciting prizes when the show premieres on screens in October 2021 for the 12th season.
The airline said it was excited to be partnering with such an iconic show, adding that through the partnership, the airline will support the tenacity, and resilient spirit of young Nigerians who have shown to always find a way out of any difficult challenge life throws at them.
“It is our way of cheering Nigerian youths on to success. The Gulder Ultimate Search aligns with one of the founding principles of Air Peace- youth empowerment”, Allen Onyema said.
Supporting Nigerian carriers
As domestic airlines make efforts to represent Nigeria in other countries, experts in the aviation sector have stressed on the need to support and strengthen indigenous airlines so that from their strength, they begin to develop international capacity and from their performance, foreign airlines can easily partner with them to allow easy access to the international market.
“We have Air Peace with such capacity, so what the government needs to do is to see how they can support Air Peace in air diplomacy. We need the government to support Air Peace that is flying international routes. You must back that airline up with all diplomatic and aero political laws and powers.
“We must protect and ensure reciprocity in whatever we do concerning the routes they hope to operate on. We must remove every stumbling block. Air Peace has shown that it has that capacity, so all the government needs to do is to show some powers and support so that anyone seeing Air Peace will know that Air Peace is representing Nigeria,” Olumide Ohunayo said.
Seyi Adewale however advised the airline as it celebrates six years in the industry to keep focus, ensure it connects staff to brand loyalty, continue to work on its structure noting that the horizon has changed aftermath 6years, work closely and build good relationship with all relevant industry stakeholders, maintain safety & service standards and lastly remain customer-centric.