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How Air Peace is deepening bilateral ties between Nigeria, South Africa

Nigeria is increasingly looking for ways to deepen its bilateral air services agreement with many countries of the world. This is in a bid to make air travel seamless for passengers traveling from one part of the globe to another.

To this end, Nigeria’s leading carrier, Air Peace, at the weekend, launched its inaugural flight out of Lagos into Johannesburg, South Africa.

The service is key to driving Nigeria’s bilateral relationship with South Africa; facilitating trade and commerce, as well pushing for tourism and movement of people. These are prerequisites for economic development and better standard of living.

Speaking at a pre departure ceremony at the Lagos Airport, Allen Onyema, chairman of Air Peace, described the commencement of flight into South Africa as a rare feat, affirming that Nigeria airlines were capable of breaking barriers only if given the enabling environment to operate.

Onyema, who expressed happiness at the feat, said Nigerians would now heave a sigh of relief as they now had a choice of direct flight to South Africa.

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He said it was the plan of the company from inception to connect Nigeria to the world through the cities, adding that Thursday’s flight to Johannesburg was a fulfilment of the plan.

“I feel great for Nigerians, I feel very happy because Air Peace is trying to offer the Nigerian flying public direct flight to Johannesburg and back to Nigeria instead of going around the world or Africa. It’s just a matter of less than six hours but it’s something that we had looked forward to.

“We promised Nigerians six years ago that we were not just going to connect cities in Nigeria but connect this country to other nations of the world and gradually we are getting there”, he said.

He, however, said the airline would not rest on its oars but initiate sustainable plans in order to compete favourably on the route.

“We don’t want to deceive ourselves by saying that we are the only one on the route and for us to sustain the tempo of whatever we are doing, we have to be pragmatic and strategic in our planning. Like I said, we are following our business plans of 2014 meticulously and we have achieved everything we said we would do in 2014. “We believe that we can do more with articulate planning. The era of saying Nigerian airlines is a push-over is gone forever. All we need is the enabling environment to operate. And also, the launch of this flight by Air Peace will help to boost economic progress and our bilateral relations,” he further said.

Speaking at the ceremony marking the inaugural flight of Air Peace into Johannesburg, South Africa, Oluwatoyin Olajide, chief operating officer, Air Peace, said the carrier’s decision to extend flights into Johannesburg was consequent upon the vision to create affordable and safe air travel for Africans.

She said the airline would continue its drive to connect various African cities with its signature hospitality as a tool for fostering unity and enhancing impactful economic relations.

Olajide said: “Our commitment to excellence and determination to reduce the air travel burden of Africans by employing dynamics that are peculiar to the African people has proudly earned us the title of the biggest airline in West and Central Africa.

“It is this same excellence and determination that we’re bringing to South Africans. The airline has recorded a lot of milestones in less than a decade and now services sixteen domestic routes, five regional routes and two international destinations, including the United Arab Emirates, which we launched in July 2019.

“As we commence regular flights into Johannesburg, we’re promising South Africans, Nigerians and other Africans that the new route will be well serviced. We also pledge to work very harmoniously with all the stakeholders including the South African Civil Aviation Authority, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the airports’ administrators and the governments of both countries to ensure the new route is successfully serviced.

“Lastly, we must also thank all the stakeholders who made significant contributions to the official entry of Air Peace into South Africa. Together we hope to achieve more for our countries.”

Also speaking at the event, Ezenwa Nwaobiala, minister, Political and Nigerian Community Affairs, Consulate of Nigeria, commended the airline, explaining that it was a tested and trusted brand.

Nwaobiala said, “We are pleased to welcome you to this occasion. We are proud that we are launching our best airline to South Africa. We see this vista of opportunity because when Nigeria and South Africa get together, great things happen. Whenever the two of us agree, a lot happens.

“Air Peace has been tested and proven since it started emergency operations into South Africa. We are happy because a lot of people have been asking and waiting for this opportunity. With the evacuation flights, a lot of confidence was reposed in this airline and we pray it would be the best of all the entrants on the South African route,” he said.

Mohammed Danjuma, an executive member of the Air Peace Board, who also spoke at the event, said that the airline was striving to serve and connect Africa.

Danjuma called for support for the airline as it strove to change the face of the air travel industry.

Also speaking, Abdulmalik Ahmed, consul general of Nigeria to South Africa, said the flight into South Africa by Air Peace was significant because the country remained Nigeria’s biggest partner over the years.

Speaking about the economic benefit of the flight, the Nigerian envoy noted that the route launch would help to improve foreign inflows and encourage investment.

He said: “The Lagos- Johannesburg route was serviced by Arik and South African Airways but unfortunately, both airlines could not sustain operations on the routes. It is against this background that Air Peace is entering the market.”

In her remarks, Fundi Sithe, chief operating officer, Airports Company, South Africa, commended the airline for flying into their flagship airport, Oliver Tambo International Airport.

Sithe noted that the number of passengers on the return trip showed that the route was much awaited.

She said, “Yesterday, we saw that the inaugural flight arrived at Oliver Tambo International Airport, December 17 on time. It arrived with 85 passengers on board and departed later on with an estimated 207 passengers. That is quite significant because the difference tells us that there is a level of demand that has not been serviced.”

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