By Stanley Olisa
When Nigeria’s leading airline, Air Peace, in 2018, announced a firm order for 30 brand new Embraer 195-E2 aircraft, some people, especially skeptics and nitpickers, took the announcement with a grain of salt. They would have taken it as a mere ‘news-making gimmick’. But little did they know that Air Peace’s founder, Allen Onyema, a visionary entrepreneur, and indeed the entire management team of the airline had every operational initiative all planned out from the outset, to ensure the airline flies at the top of West Africa’s aviation terrain and sustains that position through consistent route expansion, strategic fleet acquisition and critical manpower development.
In less than seven years of operation, Air Peace has had significant milestones and has become an industry leader in all facets of growth, route network, fleet size and workforce. Three years ago, the airline made an order for 30 ultra-modern 124-seat capacity aircraft from Brazil’s aviation giant, Embraer. Ten of these orders were activated in 2018 while an additional three were activated at the Dubai Airshow in 2019, leaving purchase rights at 17. In the first half of 2021, Air Peace has proven its scoffers wrong by taking delivery of three of the 13 firm orders, fresh from Embraer’s factory. The airline has also expressed readiness to receive five more of these aeronautical wonders before this year runs out. Onyema had made the disclosure at the reception for the airline’s third brand new E195-E2 aircraft at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on June 17, 2021.
Onyema also stated that the airline hopes to take delivery of all 13 firm orders by the end of 2022, while it will activate 10 orders from the 17 purchase rights left. This implies that, within the next couple of years, Nigerian and West African flying public would have about 23 brand new aircraft to fly in, courtesy of Air Peace, in its unwavering drive to interconnect major cities across the African continent. The impact of these new planes is massive, especially in the areas of employment creation and further bolstering Nigeria’s image on the international aviation scene, giving it the toga of a country that can boast of an airline with several brand new aircraft littering the skies and giving travellers an exceptional flight experience.
Onyema said: “By next year, we hope to receive all the 13 airplanes we already made firm orders for and, by the end of 2023, we intend to activate payment for another 10 of the aircraft brand, which will bring it to 23. And we have new routes that we want to deploy the aircraft to. We have new routes that we have just opened, and more routes will still come in the coming months. We are opening Gombe very soon and our intention is to open up this country. We will also connect North East with North West and other routes. Owerri-Kaduna and other routes will be connected. We have been designated to so many destinations by the government. We have over 20 destinations, which is very commendable.”
Aviation stakeholders have also expressed delight over the new acquisitions by Air Peace and how such behemothic stride will help change the face of Nigeria’s aviation and earn the country more respect in the global aviation community. The director-general, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu, who described the new acquisition of brand new planes as a “milestone,” maintained that what was happening in Nigeria’s aviation industry was a “paradigm shift.”
Nuhu asserted that: “Today is another milestone and a paradigm shift and this is something that I have not seen since my days at Nigerian Airways when they were purchasing the right aircraft for the right routes. Air Peace is not only buying aircraft but buying the right size aircraft for the Nigerian market. The Embraer aircraft is the right aircraft, it breaks even with low passenger figures, your maintenance cost is low, your operational cost is low. Another factor is that the new aircraft is absolutely great for the environment, it does less pollution. I am really proud that I am director-general of NCAA when this paradigm shift is happening. We are all here to work together to grow the industry and we have to give kudos to the entrepreneur, Allen Onyema”.
Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, also stressed that the purchase of brand new aircraft by Air Peace was in consonance with Federal Government’s road map for the nation’s aviation industry, adding that the feat was a step in the right direction. Sirika stressed that the use of brand new planes by Nigerian carriers would change the dynamics in airlines’ profitability and sustainability, by driving down maintenance and fueling costs.
Air Peace is not a national carrier but flying very high the Nigerian flag, as it is the only airline that operates international flights, UAE and South Africa, and designated by the Federal Government of Nigeria to operate other multiple international destinations such as Mumbai-India, Guangzhou-China, London and Houston-U.S. Air Peace is propelled by its no-city-left-behind vision to provide peaceful and affordable connectivity for Nigerians using the right kind of aircraft befitting for each route. With a varied fleet of 28 aircraft, two international destinations, five regional routes and 17 domestic routes, Air Peace has tremendously demonstrated an unimpugnable capability to compete favourably with other international airlines, and requires our collective support and that of the government to keep the pot boiling.
•Olisa wrote from Lagos