November 13, 2021

Air Peace @ 7 : Stakeholders focus on review of air fares, task FG on facilities for night operations

Air Peace

By Lawani Mikairu

As Nigerians celebrate the successful commercial flight operations of Air Peace airline in these past seven years with its milestones in fleet and routes expansion , aviation stakeholders have called on the nation’s domestic airlines to review their fares and charges.
The upward review, according to the stakeholders , is to enable the airlines meet their ever increasing costs of operations due to the current weak position of the naira to other foreign currencies.
This is just as the Stakeholders have called on the federal government to improve the facilities at the country’s airports, especially the navigational aids so that the domestic airlines can make night flights to increase their earnings.
Recall Air Peace started commercial flight operations in October , 2014 and currently services 19 domestic routes, 6 regional routes and 2 international destinations, namely ,Johannesburg , South Africa and Sharjah, Dubai, UAE. The airline boasts of a varied fleet of 30 aircraft, the latest being four brand new 124-seat capacity Embraer 195-E2s.
Speaking with Vanguard on ways Air Peace and other Nigerian domestic airlines can sustain their operations, the former Commandant, Muritala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Group Captain John Ojikutu ( rtd) said for Air Peace to sustain its current service, there is urgent need for a review of fares and charges because of the high cost of operations and aircraft maintenance.
According to him, airlines cannot keep charging the same less than 100 dollars fares for an hour flight when the naira was relatively stable. He said since the operational costs of the airlines are dollar denominated, fares are bound to be reviewed upward
Retired Group Captain Ojikutu said : ” The airlines too must review their tickets tariff and obtain the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, approval for reasonable increase to meet the cost of their operations. Charging less than $100 for an hour flight today when fuel is being imported at the present naira rate to a dollar is irrational and unreasonable as against the time when $100 was being charged for the same distance when fuel was refined and available in the country.”
” The fuel cost is said to be high and could still be higher; the handling charges is being increased and so could be others. Will the air fares remain same? Am waiting to see which side of the divide the airlines would be with the various increases in service charges.”
On ways Air Peace could be encouraged to render better service to passengers and to break even, considering the capital intensive nature of airline business, the former Airport Commandant said : ” Let me repeat what I have said severally; government as a policy must not allow multiple destinations to the foreign airlines in Nigeria.”
“Each foreign airline must operate to either Lagos or Abuja and one other airport at alternative geographical location but not to Lagos and Abuja. However, any foreign airlines that wishes to make multiple flights daily to its chosen destination in Nigeria should be allowed.”
” The aim is to preserve the market on the Nigerian routes to the domestic airlines and create interlining cooperation between the foreign and domestic airlines”.
On encouraging domestic airlines to do night operations, Ojikutu said : ” There is need to improve on the facilities at most airports for night operations with a view to extending the hours of their operations beyond sunset and therefore the airlines operations times.”.
While advising Air Peace as the airline celebrates it seventh anniversary, Ojikutu said : ” I think the airline has taken a reasonable step to change size of the aircraft in its fleet to medium size and low range aircraft. The medium range aircraft in the fleet of most Nigerian airlines have a high operational costs which their domestic earnings cannot sustain on long-term haul.”
” It’s a good thing that most of the new arrivals and Air Peace have realised this and have gone for the use of low range and medium size aircraft with lower operating costs.”
Also speaking with Vanguard on the occasion of Air Peace seventh anniversary celebration, the fomer Secretary General of National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, Comrade Yinka Abioye said : ” Let me join millions of Nigerians and aviation stakeholders to felicitate with the financier, management and staff of Air Peace on the occasion of her 7th anniversary. Having said this, looking back now, one can say with emphasis that Air Peace has performed tremendously well but she has some questions hanging on her neck”.
” Air Peace has been able to heighten airline operational visibility and created jobs for Nigerians. I must commend the owner for this singular feat of providing jobs for Nigerians and creating that philanthropic disposition to other Nigerians and bodies.”
“It is a known fact that the Nigerian aviation system is deficient in some areas which is impacting negatively on the operational performance of our airlines”.
On what the government should do for Air Peace and other domestic airlines, Abioye said : ” As an Oil producing nation, one would have thought that we should be able to produce Jet A1 to ease the endlessly escalating price of fuel for our airlines. This has to be addressed in collaboration with the Oil majors and NNPC in particular, more so now that it has been unbundled”. “Secondly, we have heard lamentations from stakeholders on how they have been mistreated through obnoxious payments to the Excise and Customs Service of the Federation while waivers were put in place by the FG to support domestic airlines. This aspect needs to be deepened to lessen the humongous bills being paid by airlines,” he added.
On advise for the airline, the NUATE former Secretary General said Air Peace should address the issue of flight delays.
Abioye said :” How come Air Peace, with all the numbers of her operating aircraft keeps delaying flights without justifiable reasons and cancel flights? This has to stop, in order to earn her deserved place in history,” he advised.
Air Peace permanently came into international limelight on Wednesday, September 11th, 2019 following the unfortunate xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals, including Nigerians in South Africa. The Executive Chairman of the airline , Barrister Allen Onyema volunteered to send an aircraft from Friday 6th September 2019 to evacuate Nigerians who wish to return to Nigeria free of charge. The first batch of Nigerians from South Africa arrived Lagos on that day .
The airline also stunned the world at the Dubai Airshow in 2019 when it placed firm order for 13 brand new Embraer 195- E2 planes thereby becoming the first operator of the brand new E2 in Africa. It also has purchase right for 17 of the same model. The airline has since received four out of the thirteen firmed order.
Only recently, Air Peace was recognised with the Distinguished Safety Performance Award by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, in Kaduna ” in recognition of Air Peace’s consistent commitment to safety with records of zero accident/serious incident at the Kaduna International Airport”.
It will be recalled that in August this year, Air Peace was also conferred with the Gold Standard Safety Award by the National Association of Aircraft and Pilots Engineers, NAAPE, for its ” safety record and safety system performance as well as outstanding investment in brand new aircraft and equipment.”
Recently, the Anambra State government commended Air Peace airline and likened Onyema’s patriotism to late Dr Nnamidi Azikiwe’s
The State government praised the airline for its ” no-city-left-behind strategy” which has seen it open operations in different parts of the country in the last few months with rapidity.The latest operations were opened in Gombe and Ibadan, Oyo State, within a space of three days.
In keeping with his philanthropic spirit, Onyema agreed for Air Peace to sign a renewable sponsorship agreement with the Nigerian Football Federation, NFF .
The agreement makes Air Peace the official airline sponsor of the country’s national teams.
The sponsorship agreement which is for a four-year period, is renewable every year. Speaking at the agreement signing ceremony in Lagos, the President of Nigerian Football Federation, NFF, Amaju Pennick said the “initial agreement” is worth N300m with additional benefits to the country’s national teams.
Responding, Air Peace Chairman, Barrister Allen Onyema said it has always been his aspiration to contribute and support national aspirations like the super Eagles and other national teams.
Onyeama said, ” We are investing so much in this sponsorship and partnership in this austere times because we want to restore hope to the country. We believe in Nigeria and the Nigeria project. People are losing hope in the country. But I believe in the greatness of the country”.
Air Peace was involved in evacuation flights for different countries, including security conscious Isreal, during the lockdown worldwide at the peak of the covid-19 pandemic. The airline did a 16 hours non-stop flight to China to bring in Nigeria’s covid-19 prevention equipment and drugs.