By Stanley Olisa
It is incontrovertible that Nigeria’s aviation industry is laden with humongous challenges, ranging from forex crunch, fuel crisis, inadequate technical manpower, statutory bottlenecks, etc, making it tough for airlines to stay afloat and sustain themselves. These factors, coupled with other internal drawbacks, have led to the untimely demise of some indigenous airlines while some others are still grappling to survive.
But the technical vibrancy and operational consistency which Air Peace, barely nine years old, has demonstrated, give local and foreign aviation analysts and the larger global community a powerful indication that there abound prospects and possibilities in Nigeria’s aviation industry.
When Air Peace commenced operations in October 2014, from the cynicism expressed and the nitpicking perspectives of pessimists who were already accustomed to seeing airlines rise and fall, one could feel that they nurtured a premonition for the airline but Air Peace has defied all the odds, including the harsh realities of COVID-19 pandemic, to not only remain relevant in the discourse of aviation but to also keep recording giant feats on the international scene, as an unstoppable force on a transformational mission.
Has Air Peace had its own share of the kitty of challenges? Yes. But it has grown from it, coming out stronger, innovating to keep dominating the market while serving the flying public peaceful connectivity, giving them an ever-increasing network options to choose from. The airline has, unarguably, continued to live up to its Mission of ‘expanding locations both domestically and beyond as the largest and most profitable airline company to achieve safe, efficient, and affordable short and long-haul services’.
In less than three years, Air Peace has launched four transnational routes- two regional (Douala and Niamey); two international (Johannesburg and Guangzhou)- and four domestic routes (Anambra, Ibadan, Gombe, Ilorin) with a planned launch of the ninth destination- Mumbai- later in March 2023. Three key international destinations in less than three years. This is a solid testament to growth, a reflection of visionary leadership and a proficient, dedicated workforce.
When the airline announced its ‘no-city-left-behind’ initiative, some had dismissed it as mere PR sloganeering. But if you follow the trajectory of this airline closely, you will realise that its market penetration and dominance blueprint is predicated on actually ‘leaving no city behind’. The Chairman of Air Peace, Barrister Allen Onyema, has said, emphatically, that the airline was established primarily to create jobs. However, while creating jobs, the airline also seeks to reduce the travel burden of Nigerians, and Africans in general. This entails connecting cities locally, regionally and internationally, at pocket-friendly costs, factoring the economic dynamics of the Nigerian system.
It all made perfect sense when the airline disclosed plans to kick off flight operations into Jos and Maiduguri. It already operates three routes in the North Central and North East zones- Gombe, Ilorin, Makurdi- and the launch of Jos and Maiduguri will increase the routes to five in both zones.
The Chief Operating Officer, Air Peace, Oluwatoyin Olajide, at the airline’s recent engagement with its travel partners, stressed that the airline is embarking on an aggressive but strategic route expansion. She said, “We have a number of routes in the works. Mumbai is launching on March 31, 2023. Tel Aviv, Jeddah, Malabo, Congo Kinshasa, Lome and other regional destinations have also been planned for commencement, alongside the addition of Abuja-Banjul and Abuja-Dakar connections to our growing regional network”.
According to the airline, passengers can connect Mumbai from Kano, Monrovia, Abuja, Accra, Port Harcourt and Douala through Lagos. The airline has also announced a launch fare of N450,000 for Mumbai (return flight) with the offer to freely airlift passengers from any of their local routes to Lagos for departure to Mumbai. What this means is that, if you are in Kano, for instance, you will be freely airlifted from Kano to Lagos for your Mumbai flight. This is a promo campaign and has a timeline to it.
Speaking at the meeting with the travel partners, the Chief Pilot of Air Peace, Captain Martin Okunpolor, stated that the airline would be flying direct, nonstop to Mumbai while hinting that flights to Delhi would follow subsequently after the Mumbai operations had gained some momentum.
He said the airline would be deploying its wide-body, luxury Boeing 777 aircraft for the route and plans to begin with two weekly flight frequencies, adding that the Indian airspace is not new to Air Peace as the airline operated special charter flights to the country during the COVID-19 period. “Passengers will enjoy the flight experience and we have well-trained and richly experienced pilots that operate our international flights, and Mumbai will not be an exception”, Captain Okunpolor asserted.
Air Peace is strategically investing in the right model of aircraft, especially with its fleet modernisation programme while also taking cognizance of commercial sustainability and customer experience as well as hiring and training the best technical manpower to drive the process of delivering quality services.
“Now, we have 38 aircraft and are still expecting 8 brand new Embraer 195-E2s from our firm order in 2019 and additional 15 brand new Boeing 737 Max 8 and 10 orders, as we ramp up plans to strengthen our operations to serve our esteemed customers better”, the airline said in a press release issued in January 2023.
Air Peace has become a gigantic force, representing Nigeria in the global aviation community, and shows incredible prospects of competing neck and neck with other notable airlines in the West. All it needs is the support of the government and the flying public as it continues to innovate and further optimise its operations for world-class service delivery.
Olisa wrote from Lagos.