Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State has commended Dana Air for introducing Owerri-Abuja-Owerri flights saying it had brought the needed succour to the people of Imo state who have had to pay more for less services on other airlines on the route.
Dana Air had, on Tuesday, commenced scheduled flight operations between the Sam Mbakwe Airport Owerri, Imo State and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja as part of its domestic route expansion project for 2018.
The launch of flight services between Owerri and Abuja also fulfills part of the terms of an existing joint venture agreement between the airline and the Imo state government which seeks to ease the transportation difficulties of government officials, business owners and indigenes of the state through the provision of timely and affordable air connectivity to various destinations across Nigeria.
The Dana Air inaugural flight 9J368 which lasted about 45 minutes was operated with an MD 83/82 aircraft and had a 90 per cent load factor or passenger patronage.
“Our desire is to make Imo state a hub in the South East and our partnership with Dana Air has increased traffic to our state, because of their convenient fares, quality service and most of all, our people are time-conscious and Dana Air is a time-conscious airline,’’ the governor, who was represented by his Special Adviser, Mr. Ikenna Eme said.
Some of the passengers on board the flight lauded the management of Dana Air for eventually acceding to their demand of opening up the Owerri-Abuja route as part of their daily flight schedule in Nigeria.
The launch of the Dana Air flight coincided with the May Day workers celebration and most passengers on board the inaugural flight were labour union leaders shuttling between various state capitals and Abuja.
A passenger who identified himself Dr. Chidi Nwadiaro, a member of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) said it was always a disheartening sight arriving the Owerri Airport to see hundreds of passengers struggling to find space in the fewer number of aircraft servicing the airport.
“The Owerri Airport has been growing bigger every year in terms of the number of passengers passing through it which is a very good development, but the major challenge is that we don’t have the right number of airlines to service most routes,” said Nwadiaro.
“I am therefore very happy that Dana Air has added th Owerri to Abuja route to the Owerri to Lagos route and this is a huge relife to most of us because of the option now provides to numerous air passengers in this state. I advise them to keep to their scheduled flying time; that is all what we want from the airline,”Nwadiaro added.
Another passenger, Anthony Uche, a trader lauded the airline for investing on the Owerri-Abuja route describing it as a “much awaitted intervention” that has assuaged the yearnings of the airline’s passengers in the state.
“Some of us who prefer flying no other airline than Dana Air are very excited today,” said Uche. “For me, I do business between Abuja, Lagos and Owerri and because there is no competition the other airline that comes to Owerri sometimes would charge between N35,000-N45,000 as airfares between Owerri and Abuja. Sometimes I go by road or through Port Harcourt airport. But today I bought a Dana Air ticket for N18,000 online which means a small business owner like me can still fly to Abuja. I am very happy,” he added. Suleiman Mirano, another passenger on the flight said Dana Air has provided an alternative to lots of passengers on the Abuja-Owerri route.
“Some people miss their flights for reasons that are not their fault and are stuck in Owerri or Abuja with no alternatives for the whole day,” said Mirano. “I missed mine yesterday, but there is an option today created by Dana Air and am flying back to Abuja. That is the kind of competition we want to see in our airports,” he added.
The return flight (Abuja – Owerri) which also enjoyed a huge passenger patronage had players and supporters of Heartland Football Club on board. One of the club supporters explained how they were left stranded as the club bus conveying them back from Kano to Owerri after a football match with Kano Pillars Football Clunb broke down along the road.
“Once we learnt that today there would be a direct flight between Abuja and Owerri, we all rushed to Abuja airport and we are just too happy to be on this air trip back to Owerri. This would not have been possible with Dana Air flying between the two cities because they are also our sponsors,” said the supporter, who simply gave his name as Ifeanyi.