By Magnus Eze and Chinelo Obogo
The governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has expressed appreciation to the management of United Airline for making the state its operational hub.
This is also as the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) revealed that the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, has recorded 600 percent growth in passenger traffic in two years.
At the airline’s inaugural flight, which took place at the Enugu airport, the governor who was represented by his deputy chief of staff, Prof. Malachy Okwueze, said the company didn’t make any mistake by making the state its hub. He assured that the state government will give them all the support they need and assured them of peace and security.
“Enugu state government is excited to welcome United Nigeria Airline. We congratulate the company, particularly, the chairman of the airline for this very giant feat. We are excited not only because United Nigeria is now flying into Enugu but particularly because Enugu is the operating hub. Enugu is the best state where any business can thrive. It is a home of peace and the safest State in Nigeria.
“I can assure you on behalf of the governor that you have not made any mistake to make Enugu your hub. The state government will give you all the encouragement and we will continue to support you. We are glad to welcome you and we will continue to partner with you,” Okwueze said.
Commenting on the development, the airport terminal manager, Cecilia Oguama, revealed that the passenger traffic at the airport has increased from 1000 in 2019 to over 6000 in 2021, a feat she said is as a result of more airlines operating inbound and outbound flights.
She said: “The traffic in and out of the airport has increased tremendously. We are now having between 6000 and 7000 passengers weekly. Before COVID19, we had less than 1000 passenger traffic because we had only one airline then. In 2019, we only had Air Peace operating but now we have four others operating regularly including United Airline.
“We have close to eight flights daily and United Airline has made Enugu their base, so they would enjoy tremendous support from the airport. Cargo movement has not started yet because the international terminal hasn’t opened for operations.’’
Speaking on the United Airline’s flight schedule and plans for expansion, the company’s station manager, Chika Adeyanju, said they decided to use Enugu as their hub because other airlines use either Abuja or Lagos and they wanted to be different and also tap from the many opportunities the state has to offer.
“We use Enugu as our operational base because we noticed that most airlines have their operational base in Abuja, so we wanted to make a difference, we decided to start from Enugu so that things will be normalised.
“Currently our destinations are Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, Asaba, Owerri and Port Harcourt for now. These places are not saturated and we need the competition.
Our unique selling point is safety and on-time departure. We have four aircraft and more are expected. Since we are starting with domestic, it is viable for us to start with small aircraft. As time goes on, we will be having up to four or five flights into Enugu,” Adeyanju said.
Speaking at the occasion, the chairman of the airline, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, said the short-term goal is to consolidate, establish all its routes and then work on expansion. He also said the airline wants to expand beyond Nigeria, starting from the West Coast.
“We can see that there is a gap in this industry and we have not made any mistake to make Enugu aviation hub. The state government will give us encouragement and we are driven by service to humanity.
“Our short term goal is to consolidate, establish all our routes and then work about expanding. We want to expand beyond Nigeria, starting from the West Coast. The market is huge and there is need for a lot of aircraft. It might surprise you to know that we had full load in all the routes we operated on the day of our inaugural flight. We are prepared for the competition. Those who are in the business should be worried because we are new. We think that within the next three months we shall be able to expand our routes,” Okonkwo said.