It was not an accident let alone a coincident that the symbol of a ‘soaring eagle’ became the logo of Air Peace Airlines, West Africa’s largest carrier. When Allen Onyema conceived the idea of floating an airline of this magnitude, he knew that the journey would not be easy, especially coming from a country that has witnessed the rise and fall of several airlines in less than two decades. Nigerian airlines found it difficult to excel in the international routes. The eagle in Air Peace’s logo symbolizes vision, fortitude and preparedness to ride on any storm that comes the way of the Airline as it marches towards placing Nigeria on the global map of aviation. Nine years in the sky, Air Peace has truly demonstrated attributes of an eagle in weathering storms in the industry. It has been from one milestone of growth to another history of achievement.
When it became news that Air Peace had been granted permit to fly into United Kingdom, UK, after scaling through stringent audit of British aviation authority, it sent aviation observers in the country into celebration mood. This is a big breakthrough for the Nigeria’s aviation industry—that is worth celebrating. Nigeria’s travelling public yearned for a day that a Nigerian indigenous airline would be flying into United Kingdom, especially London. Few days before this development became public, Air Peace had launched its sixth international route, Jeddah—Saudi Arabia. Before then, Air Peace flights into Saudi Arabia were only limited to charter flights—airlifting of Muslims pilgrims going on Haji, but it has commenced full commercial flights operations in the Middle East country.
When fully operational in the London-route, Air Peace will bring a huge sigh of relief to Nigerians who are being exploited by foreign airlines via exorbitant ticket fares, and stereotyping, etc. Imagine an ugly situation where Nigerians have been paying more in ticket fares to travel to London than their counterparts in other neighbouring countries. Nigerians are the most mobile populace in the world. We have the humongous population and mobility which make our international routes very lucrative and attractive for foreign airlines. Unfortunately, our indigenous airlines are yet to fully benefit from this market due to politics in the industry, orchestrated by these foreign airlines and their agents in Nigeria meant to keep indigenous airlines out of these busy routes, thereby shortchanging Nigeria in the long run.
In the past, before the emergence of Air Peace, these oligopolistic foreign airlines cornered these lucrative international routes to themselves. Every effort made by indigenous airlines to break into these routes were frustrated by these foreign interests with their local collaborators, who put their selfish interests above patriotism. Some of now defunct indigenous airlines who made attempts to ply these foreign routes, fell to the trap of these foreign airlines by not working very hard to increase capacity and efficiency of their airlines. It became easy for these foreign airlines to use the propaganda of “not-having-capacity” to keep them out of these busy routes, while milking Nigerians dry.
With Air Peace in the picture, that propaganda expired, because since inception the Airline took issue of increasing its capacity and efficiency seriously. While three aircraft are required to get operating licence for commercial flight, Air Peace began operation with seven aircraft. It has increasingly expanded its fleet to more than 40 aircraft. With firm order of 33 aircraft and purchase right of 17 aircraft, Air Peace boasts of total order of 50 brand new aircraft, making it fastest growing airline in Africa—in just less than a decade of operation. The aircraft in its order list include: 15 Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 10, 13 Embraer 195-E2 (of which 5 have been delivered), 5 Embraer 175 and purchase right of 17 Embraer 195-E2. Imagine the fleet of Air Peace when all these planes will be fully delivered.
So, with the argument of capacity out of the way, Air Peace has become really unstoppable rising above the stormy weather that caught indigenous airlines of the past who made attempts to compete in these international routes. For the first time, an indigenous airline is set to become a major player in the ever-busy Nigeria-London route with its attendant economic opportunities, both for the Airline and Nigerian flying public. I learned also that Air Peace Airlines is making a demand for a slot in the Heathrow Airport. This is a welcome development. British authorities will have no excuses not to oblige to this noble request. Anything contrary to this will imply that United Kingdom want to keep Nigeria airlines out of British airspace and Nigerian government has to reciprocate by denying British airlines access to our primary airports—Abuja and Lagos.
With the spate of migration out of the country (Japa Syndrome), especially to the United Kingdom by Nigerian youths for studies and greener pasture, it becomes imperative and economically wise to position the country’s leading airline, Air Peace, as one of the carriers plying the very busy route—that is increasingly getting busier. Population of Nigerians in the United Kingdom, UK, is skyrocketing at astronomical level to the extent that some school of thought jokingly refers to the UK as Nigeria’s 37th State. Some businesses that hitherto operated in the country are sadly relocating abroad, including United Kingdom. Some Nigerian entrepreneurs are strategically setting up branches of their businesses in the UK to target Nigerians there, earn in foreign currency in the face of depreciating naira and equally preserve their wealth.
In the foregoing context, there is no better time for Air Peace to commence its long-awaited UK-route than now. I have to commend Dr. Allen Onyema, Air Peace’s chairman, who recently got conferred a Doctorate Degree of Management Science by the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), and his Management team, for not giving up in the face of hurdles it encountered while pushing to obtain this very important permit that have opened aviation doors of United Kingdom to an indigenous airline and Nigeria aviation industry in general.
Irrespective of daunting challenges in the industry like infrastructural inadequacies, administrative bottlenecks, foreign exchange crisis and lack of efficient maintenance facility, etcetera, which have reduced easy of doing busy, Air Peace Airline has not been discouraged in its quest to give Nigeria its rightful place in the aviation world, especially in the international routes where absence of a viable Nigerian airline has robbed us of alot of opportunities and privileges.
According to International Air Transport Association (IATA), base on its August, 2023 data, trapped funds of foreign airlines operating in Nigeria stood at $783 million. Out of these funds, how much belongs to Nigerian airline(s)? Foreign airlines are repatriating hundreds of millions of dollars from Nigeria annually, but we don’t earn equivalent of such amount from their own economics via any of our indigenous airlines yet we still wonder why naira keeps depreciating and jobs varnishing.
Too much pressure on our limited reserves without corresponding inflow of dollars. To make matters worse, foreign airlines had to block low ticket inventories (cheap tickets), leaving high inventories (costly tickets) to be sold in naira only, while the low ticket inventories on most airlines websites could only be bought in dollar cards, just to cushion the effects of trapped funds in the country, while leaving Nigerians in the cold of expensive tickets being priced in dollars with its adverse impact on the naira. I think Nigeria government should give Air Peace Airlines all the necessary supports it requires to begin commercial flights operations in its UK route as soon as possible.
Obviously, Air Peace will sell its tickets in naira, of which will help to reduce “dollarisation” of our economy, minimize pressure on the naira, create jobs for teeming youths and earn foreign exchange for the country. In addition, It will be a thing of national pride to see an indigenous airline fly to and flo Heathrow Airport, London.