By Chinelo Obogo
Air Peace has reaffirmed that it made a firm order of Boeing 737 Max, which recently was recertified to resume operation.
Speaking at the delivery of its second brand new Embraer E195-2 in Abuja on Thursday, the Chairman of the airline, Allen Onyema, said that its order of the technology advanced aircraft subsists and that the timeline for its delivery would be announced.
Onyema said that the airline plans to replace the older aircraft in its fleet, made largely of B737 classics with the Boeing 737 MAX and the Embraer E195-E2 in addition to the eight E145, which provides service to low passenger traffic airports.
“We are not phasing out our Boeing aircraft, part of our business plan is that as we are getting the brand new planes, we would be phasing out the old ones, but remember that we are bringing in brand new Boeing 737 Max. We are still a member of the Boeing family; we may have to phase out any aging Boeing aircraft in our fleet,” he stated.
Onyema said that currently about 20 of Air Peace aircraft are in maintenance facilities overseas and some of them are expected to start coming back from soon, adding that what delayed the delivery of the aircraft was because of the Covid-19 lockdown, which forced maintenance facilities to stay off work.
“Most of the countries where these planes were taken to are in various levels of lockdown and as a result, the pace of work on our planes has slowed down. This has depleted our capacity both within and outside Nigeria. We are not alone in this; all the older airlines are experiencing the same thing. The only airlines that may not be having these challenges are the very new airlines within and outside Nigeria because they are just starting. But those about seven years are all doing C-checks. But before the end of July, all our planes that are in maintenance will be brought back,” he said.
Another problem he pointed out was the paucity of dollars, which he said is affecting aviation industry very seriously because “everything we do is in dollars. We have not been able to discharge our obligations to foreign maintenance organisations because you need dollars to give them. We have the naira but to get dollars is difficult. The CBN has been trying for us and we understand the plight that it is not the fault of the government but we are pleading that we should be able to access forex more easily.
“The existing planes we took for maintenance abroad will be coming in by June and we would fill the country with our planes. The economy section of our new aircraft is like the business class of other airlines. I’m a nationalist and I believe in this country; that’s why I want the best planes for Nigerians,” Onyema said.