…South African officials, Nigerians welcome inaugural commercial operation
By Lawani Mikairu
The inaugural direct flight by Air Peace airline from Lagos to Johannesburg, South Africa Thursday would deepen the bi- lateral and economic relationships between Nigeria and South Africa.
This is just as it has also been described as a dream come true by Nigeria Consul General in South Africa.
The Chief Operating Officer of Air Peace also described the flight as a realisation of a desire that started immediately the airline evacuated some Nigerians from South Africa during the xenophobic attack on them by native South Africans.
The wide bodied , double- aisle Boeing 777 aircraft on flight 47563 , departed from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos Nigeria by 1.30 am on Thursday morning with passengers, Lagos Airport senior officials including the Regional Manager , South West, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Mrs Victoria Shina-aba, and selected aviation correspondents.
The flight arrived the Oliver Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, South Africa about Five and half hour hours later and was welcomed to a cannon of water salute by the South Africa airport authority officials and jubilant Nigerians at the Oliver Tambo Airport.
The chairman of Air Peace , Barrister Allen Onyema while fielding questions from the media aboard the flight into South Africa said the inaugural flight” has opened up new possibilities for intra-continental businesses, trade , as well as create improve bi-lateral relations between Nigeria and South Africa “.
He also expressed joy at the connection of the two economies stating that it will reduce the travel time between both countries and encourage fluid relationships.
Onyema said : ”I feel great for Nigerians. I feel happy because Air Peace is trying to afford the flying public direct flight to Johannesburg and back to Nigeria instead of going round the world, going round Africa before flying to South Africa. Now in less than six hours we will be there. So it is something that we look forward to doing at greater heights”.
“We promised Nigerians six years ago when we started Air Peace that we were not only going to connect cities in Nigeria and communities , but also connect our country with other nations of the world. Gradually we are getting there”.”
“ We don’t want to ‘kid’ ourselves that we are the only ones on the route now, some other people also will want to come there so for us to sustain the tempo of whatever we are doing, we have to be pragmatic, we have to be strategic too in our planning and like I said, we have been following our business plan since 2014 meticulously”.
“ The fact that Air Peace is going into South Africa will boost economic relations, progress between both countries and it’s going to improve our bi-lateral relations, it is something good and no longer one sided, “ he added.
Speaking during a dinner to celebrate the successful launch of the direct flight, the Nigeria Consul General in South Africa, Mr Malik Ahmed Abdul said the coming of Air Peace Airline to South Africa was a dream come true.
According to Abdul, who was represented at the occasion by Mr Ezenwa Nwaobiala, Minister in the Nigeria Consulate, Nigerians in South Africa have persistently asked the consulate to do everything in its power to bring Air Peace to South Africa.
He said the call heightened after the evacuation flight to South Africa by Air Peace last year. He further revealed that he had always assured them that Air Peace would eventually commence commercial flights to South Africa.
So, according to him, “ Air Peace coming to South Africa is a long dream come true. The airline demonstrated that it is the best for now in Nigeria and sub West Africa region”.
“ We are very proud of it and we will do everything to support its operations in South Africa. We are happy that it is going to reduce our travel time. We will no longer go round Africa and the world to move from South Africa to Nigeria”, he added.
Speaking also at the event, the Chief Operating Officer of Air Peace, Mrs Oluwatoyin Olajide said the airline is happy to fulfill part of it mantra that “ no city or country will be left behind “ in its routes expansion.
Mrs Olajide said : “ To me and, indeed, the entire Management of the airline, this is more than just the commencement of scheduled flights into Johannesburg. It is more. It is a solidification of the economic and commercial ties between the two giant African countries”.
“ It is the exemplification and a reflection of a mutually beneficial relationship. It is an implementation of our Bilateral Air Service Agreement in furtherance of the progress of Nigeria and South Africa and the promotion of unity between citizens of both nations”.
“ I recall how we flew into this country on September 11, 2019 and evacuated 503 Nigerians in two separate flights. Even though the circumstances were somewhat inauspicious, that particular incident heightened the airline’s desire to kick off scheduled flights into the country, and today marks the accomplishment of that ambition”. “Also, on June 26, 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown in Nigeria, we flew into South Africa to evacuate 167 Nigerians. So, you can say we’re acquainted with the South African terrain”.