By Lawani Mikairu
The Chief Operating Officer of Ibom Air, Mr George Uriesi has said the airline operates the right aircraft type that will make the newly introduced Enugu route profitable to operate.
Uriesi made the declaration while answering questions from newsmen during the inaugural flight of Ibom Air to the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu on Monday.
While expressing appreciation to the Enugu State Deputy Governor, Madam Cecelia Ezelio who personally came to welcome Ibom Air to Enugu said “we are very hopeful and confident that Enugu will be a good destination and after Enugu is settled and comfortable we will move to the next route”.
“The reason for this aircraft type is that we don’t have to carry a hundred passengers in order to make good the business. Our breakeven point is lower than many of our competitors and as long as we have certain number of passengers per flight we are comfortable, and certainly the market provides the number of passengers per flights. As long as we have those passengers or more, we continue to be profitable”.
Uriesi further revealed that in commercial flight operations, aircraft type is crucial. According to him, “What’s important is that when you have the right equipment, if someone carries 60 passengers and it doesn’t work for him, we can carry the same 60 passengers and it will work for us. We burn far less fuel than those who fly the bigger aeroplanes; we have more reliability because the aircraft are relatively new and very well maintained. So far, it’s been good”.
On the Enugu route, the Ibom Air COO said: “As the gateway to the South East, we are very proud to associate and expand our services to the South East through Enugu and we are grateful that the government and the people have come in full force to welcome Ibom air. We will partner to grow traffic in and out of not just Enugu but the entire south east starting from Enugu”.
He also said, ” Well we have come into the south east, we have moved from the federal capital to the commercial capital, Lagos to the capital of Akwa Ibom, Uyo then we got into Calabar to get that part of the country and now we are in the south east”.
“Enugu is the gateway to the south east and it’s got so many states that use this airport : there’s Ebonyi State, Anambra State, some parts of Benue State come here to fly up to Ogoja in Cross Rivers State so the clientele for this airport is huge. We are very happy to be here and we come with our usual disposition; schedule reliability, on time performance, excellent service that’s what we are about. And we hope that we provide that combination of three things to our customers they would reward us and continue to reward us with their patronage”.
On route expansion, he said, “We will expand organically, gradually into the West and Central Africa. We will not rush anything, we go into a route, stabilize the route ensure that it is becoming profitable; we go into the next route not just go from route to route. We will watch the number carefully. So we are very hopeful and confident that Enugu will be a good destination and after Enugu is settled and comfortable we will move to the next route.
Speaking about the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, he said : ” Yes Covid- -19 has impacted significantly and we lost a lot of revenue not flying for a long time while our costs continue to run. But we are back now and we have redesigned our trajectory and I am glad to say since we came back we have been following our trajectory redesign”.
“We are hopeful to survive. It is still touch and go. The industry is suffering. Big totally established airlines are sacking left, right and centre. So we are trying very hard first of all not to sack staff, secondly to build the business back to the former trajectory and to expand out footprint in Nigeria. In the last two months we did Calabar and Enugu.
“We believe we will do one more before the year runs out and then next year we pick up our trajectory. We are supposed to end this year with seven aeroplanes but we know we are going to end it with only five because this is not the market to go and get more aeroplanes. So when it stabilises and we are satisfied with what we are seeing I believe in 2021, we can start our growth trajectory again”.
“We have the right business plan and we are certain that Enugu will prove just as Calabar has proven to be a key route and then after that we stabilise”, Uriesi added.