OpinionOPINION: Air Peace: Blazing The Trail In Nigeria's Aviation Industry

OPINION: Air Peace: Blazing The Trail In Nigeria’s Aviation Industry

April 15, (THEWILL) – On March 30, history was made as the direct inaugural flight of Air Peace from Lagos, landed at Gatwick Airport in London. The ever-busy and rewarding Lagos-London route was proudly graced by the newly acquired second iconic Boeing 777 Airbus. Air Peace has carved a niche for itself as the leading domestic and international carrier in the Nigeria’s aviation sector. After seven years attempt of flying that route by Virgin Atlantic and Arik Air, a Nigerian airline has reactivated the famous Lagos to London. Testimonies of those on board the inaugural flight revealed that it was top-notch. The airline has made Nigeria proud and should be commended for its unwavering commitment and patriotism by providing a practical solution to the challenges travellers constantly face using the Lagos-London route.

This unarguably has introduced healthy competition to the aviation business which hitherto was monopolised by foreign airlines. In fact, it has crashed airfares which have been deliberately high on that lucrative route by half for the good of Nigerians. This incursion into London is an opener. One can say without fear of contradiction that multinational airlines have exploited Nigerians too much for too long on that route. The uncommon courage and resilience of Allen Onyema – the chairman and his team to make the aviation sector competitive is praiseworthy. Air Peace has raised the bar and broken the jinx. The company took a leap further the line and opened a new vista of opportunity. Healthy competition has been instituted heralding an era of transparent professional operations and easy access to a new alternative for air travellers in Nigerians.

It was a patriotic and tortuous journey attained specifically to place Nigeria on the global map of serious-minded aviation stakeholders. The joy of having a Nigerian carrier parked side by side with other notable airlines like Emirates, Qatar Airways, British Airways and the rest at international airports cannot be quantified. This in itself is another great feather added to the cap of the aviation industry in Nigeria. Nigerians all over the world are proud of this mean feat. Air Peace has dared to expose decades of decadence, manipulation and exploitation ongoing in the industry before now.

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Consequently, other airlines will not watch idly as the carrier remained determined to challenge the status quo, alter the narrative and take the lead. They will fight back as a means of survival. Deploying some under hand tactics backed by their partners in crime in the Nigerian aviation industry, they have concluded plans to frustrate Air Peace. There is already reports that visible pace was denied Air Peace while ground charges are intentionally raised.

Few days ago, Allen raised alarm regarding plans by foreign Airlines to crash their air ticket. Ethiopian Airline has descended from N1.9 million charged on economy class before now to a little above N600,000 for the same Lagos-Gatwick while Air Peace charged above N1.4m.

If you are a Nigerian making plans for international travels, it is advised that you do not fall for the antics of low price adjustment by other airlines. By crashing the fares which remained unnecessarily high before now, those affected cannot remain silent. The fare slash by foreign airlines is a business and psychological game. Nigeria can overcome the game by patronising made in Nigeria. For years, these airlines have practically made it impossible for many Nigerians to travel abroad due to their exorbitant fares.

Nigerians were paying double of what Air Peace is charging compared to what other foreign airlines charged for the same destination even when their flights are not direct. They have operated without any recourse to downwardly review their fares until Air Peace compelled them to do so. It will be quite unfair and irrational for Nigerians to abandon their own and travel by other airlines just because their price is now lower than that of Air peace.

Most foreign airlines are financially and diplomatically backed up by their home governments. The government is therefore needed at this crucial time to stand in the gap and insulate Air Peace from hostile competitors and unprofessional practices. Government and well-meaning Nigerians should not let these efforts aimed at placing Nigeria on the global map of aviation stakeholders go down the drain like others in times past. The Government of Nigeria should not see this as Allen’s business only. It has transcended beyond him as an individual.

Therefore, diplomatic and aviation-business support to sustain the tempo should be activated. Ministries of aviation, foreign affairs, trade and investment should step up action aimed at grabbing a level playing field to ensure that ‘Ojochide’ did not die like others before it. Moreover, for Air Peace to survive this gang-up against it, the government should think of tax reductions, subsidise aviation fuel and apply waivers. Air Peace has to up their game to remain relevant. They should inculcate the necessary international best practices to survive. Delay of flights without apologies, refunds and compensation should not be an option. The airline can as well provide special discounted offers to lift travellers intending to travel to London from local airports in the country and directly connect them to Lagos. This is what other international airlines cannot do.

What is expected of Nigerians is simply huge patronage of this made in Nigeria. Nigerians should lend their unflinching support whole-heartedly to the business of this patriotic individual who has demonstrated uncommon love for this nation by deploying his aircraft to evacuate citizens in need at no cost especially during the repatriation of stranded Nigerians in Libya and at the time of xenophobic attacks against Nigerians and other Africans in South Africa to thrive. The ailing Nigerian economy gains more with the patronage of Air Peace.

Therefore, those who want the Naira to rebound should not hesitate to patronise made in Nigeria products, services and businesses. Patronising and supporting Nigerian-owned businesses is a panacea to stabilising the economy and creating employment for her teeming youths. We must support this better initiative especially as there are plans for the airline to venture into other prominent and rewarding routes before the end of the year.

The petty talks about “isi-agu”, being the official dress of the crew and attendants should not have dominated the discourse in the first place. There are merits in this giant strides that deserve occupying the media space and time. We should desist from this ridiculous pedestrian obsession to pull down, denigrate and drag in the mud every issue that seems to promote another tribe other than ours. *Nke a bu nke anyi – This is our own, we have to support and make it work.

*** written by Sunday Onyemaechi Eze

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