BY EMEKA EJERE
Leading Nigerian carrier, Air Peace, is defying global economic headwinds compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic to sustain an expansionary drive in operational routes, fleet size and market share in the nation’s aviator sector.
Recently, the airline took delivery of its third brand new Embraer 195-E2 aircraft and revealed that it would take delivery of all the 13 Embraer 195-E2 aircraft it placed firm order for from Embraer Aircraft Manufacturing Company in Brazil before the end of 2022.
Making the disclosure during the delivery ceremony of the third E195-E2 aircraft at the Nnamidi Azikiwe International Airport,Abuja, the chairman of Air Peace, Barrister Allen Onyema said additional two aircraft would join the airline fleet by August, adding that no fewer than eight of the aircraft type would be delivered to Air Peace before the end of the year.
The airline also said it would activate payment for additional 10 aircraft type immediately the delivery is completed, which will bring total arrivals to 23 aircraft.
Recall that Air Peace had in 2019, announced the acquisition of 30 Embraer 195-E2 aircraft, which included 13 firm orders and 17 purchase right orders from Embraer Aircraft Company.
With the latest fleet addition, Air Peace now services 16 domestic routes, 5 regional routes and 2 international destinations, including Johannesburg and has a mixed fleet of 28 aircraft, including 3 brand new Embraer 195-E2 jets – 2 delivered earlier this year and 1 just delivered, with 11 more lined up for delivery.
In February, the airline launched new domestic routes and resumed operation on suspended ones as it was expecting all aircraft back from maintenance. The new routes included: Enugu-Kano-Enugu, Enugu-Asaba-Enugu, PHC-Kano-PHC, PHC-Kaduna-PHC, Ilorin-Lagos-Ilorin, Ilorin-Abuja-Ilorin and Ibadan-Abuja-Ibadan. The suspended routes to be resumed are Kano-Owerri-Kano, Kano-Asaba-Kano, Lagos-Yola-Lagos and Abuja-Yola-Abuja.
The airline’s Chief Operating Officer, Oluwatoyin Olajide, said that the launch of the new routes was an exemplification of the airline’s strong commitment to meeting the air transportation needs of Nigerians, driving economic development and fostering unity among various parts of the country.
“As you know, most of our aircraft are on maintenance in different parts of the world but they are all returning in February, 2021. For us, it is great news as this means the launch of new routes and the resumption of routes suspended consequent upon the COVID-19 outbreak,” Olajide had explained.
She emphasised that the new connections are also testament to Air Peace’ ‘no-city-left-behind’ initiative and unbridled determination to provide an affordable access to safe and seamless connectivity across Nigeria and beyond, adding that the airline ” is constantly reviewing its route network to reflect the air travel needs of the flying public.”
Air Peace Hopper
In its drive to connect most cities in Nigeria, the airline set up a subsidiary called Air Peace Hopper and took delivery six 50-seater new generation Embraer 145 jets to serve the subsidiary and service the inter cities routes the airline is opening.
The development marked the first time a Nigerian airline would establish a subsidiary to manage an arm of its flight operations, following the tradition of some of the big carriers in the world.
Speaking while taking delivery of the first of the six 50-seater new generation Embraer 145 jets, Onyema said : “The arrival of our latest new generation aircraft marked 5N-BUY has once again underscored our determination to bring Nigeria together through air connectivity and fix the air travel difficulties of many un-served and underserved cities in the country.”
Five Years of Great Feat
In 2019, the airline celebrated its fifth anniversary, with milestones, including having more than 60 percent share of Nigeria domestic aviation market and the fleet size larger than almost all the fleet of the other domestic airlines put together.
Little wonder, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), former commandant of Muritala Muhammed Airport, Lagos and a known vocal commentator in the aviation sector in his views on the operation of Air Peace airline in the first five years said “It should target 10 million passengers from at least 15 of the domestic airports.”
“The airline is doing relatively better on the domestic routes than others. It should target 10 million passengers from at least 15 of the domestic airports. Rather than go into competition with the foreign airlines on the international routes, do co-sharing with them and do more business on the regional and continental routes than on the intercontinental routes.”
Air Peace took the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) to unprecedented height when it evacuated 503 Nigerians from South Africa during the xenophobic attacks free without any cost to the federal government.
When asked what was the motivation behind the gesture, Onyema said: “My motivation is to save mankind, help the indigent. A lot of people were stranded in South Africa for more than five years; they did not have anybody to help them come back.”
“What gladdened my heart and made me to shed tears inside the aircraft when I went to receive them was because of what they were saying inside there. I saw Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Ijaw, etc clinging together, holding hands and shouting ‘Nigeria, Nigeria, Nigeria.’
“They were proud, and I felt grateful to God for using me to bond my nation. This is what I have worked for all my life, a peaceful Nigeria. So I started crying when they started singing the national anthem. Some of them never liked the national anthem before then; some of them would not have sung the national anthem.”
Two weeks ago, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) clarified that there was no air crash involving Air Peace aircraft as reported by some media platforms. The NCAA stated that the Air Peace B737-500 plane only experience a tyre burst in Illorin, Kwara State and that all passengers were safe.
General Manager, Public Relations, NCAA, Mr. Sam Adurogboye, in a statement clarified: “As a matter of fact, the said aircraft, which departed from Abuja successfully, landed in Ilorin. It only experienced a tyre burst in the course of taxiing.
“Meanwhile, all the 66 passengers and six crew members onboard were disembarked without any issues whatsoever on the same day. The Authority wishes to enjoin the travelling public to disregard such false and reckless presentations”.