7 Years After Launch, Air Peace Eyes More Routes -DAILY TRUST
NOVEMBER 18, 2021
By Abdullateef Aliyu
Seven years after launching into the domestic airline market, one of Nigeria’s foremost carriers, Air Peace, has transformed into the biggest carrier in West and Central Africa amid plans to expand into more international routes.
Since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999, many airlines have come and gone, and looking at the mortality rate of airlines from the post-independence era, no fewer than 50 airlines have gone into extinction. Many factors have been attributed to this short lifespan of Nigerian carriers, which largely border on the operating climate, which operators say is not friendly enough for them to withstand the challenge of remaining in business.
In a sector largely dependent on the availability of foreign exchange to acquire aircraft, conduct c-checks, purchase spare parts and so on, sourcing forex has been an uphill task for the operators. With the dollar- -to-naira exchange rate skyrocketing on a daily basis, it reflects seriously on the operating cost of airlines.
Many carriers who could not withstand this chickened out amid the heat of the difficulty of operating in a tough climate.
While more airlines are coming up today as information from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) shows, analysts say surviving for seven years in a challenging operating environment is not an easy task.
From five aircraft at inception in 2013, checks by Daily Trust indicate that the airline has increased its fleet to over 30, while servicing 19 domestic routes, six regional routes and two international destinations. In what was unprecedented in the recent aviation industry, the airline, with a mixed fleet of B737 classics, B777 and EMB 145, made a firm order of 13 brand new planes.
“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 DG when this paradigm shift is happening.”
With glaring indications of more airlines entering the system, stakeholders say the prospect of more employment opportunities for operators is high, in addition to the over 3,000 currently employed by Air Peace.
The airline’s Chairman/CEO, Mr Allen Onyema, said the airline was fulfilling the purpose of its establishment, which was to create jobs for the teeming youths, insisting that every step taken by the airline in terms of fleet expansion, route expansion was geared towards opening more job opportunities for Nigerians.
He said, “I started the airline just to create jobs and give back to society; that is all. My promise to God in the year 2000 is what I am trying to fulfil, that is the motivation. My motivation is seeing the over 4,000 faces of people working in Air Peace and knowing that they are feeding about over 20,000. So that is the motivation that makes me happy.
“In addition to that is the motivation of moving my country’s people from one place to another. The fact that I am helping with the development of the nation, trying to energise the economy, and energise the economies of some forgotten places through air connectivity helps. So, it helps in job creation, not only Air Peace employing people, but the multiplier effects of what we are doing are helping the country, and that I know very well.”
Analysts say many more domestic carriers like Air Peace could emerge with more support from the government.
“As an oil-producing nation, one would have thought that we should be able to produce Jet A1 to ease the endlessly escalating price of fuel for our airlines. This has to be addressed in collaboration with the oil majors and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in particular, more so now that it has been unbundled,” said Comrade Olayinka Abioye, former General Secretary of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE).
An aviation analyst, Dr Daniel Young, said the airline must strive to protect its brand equity by trying as much as possible to meet the passengers’ demand and improve on the timing of flights.
He said, “If somebody has done well, I will say it, if he has not done well, I will also say it. The most important thing is that the interest of the average Nigerian must come first. In that regard, I must say Air Peace has come out strong and has done well so far.
“Timing in terms of being able to pick up passengers on schedule is also affected and that impacts negatively on the profile of the company. Growth must deliberately be orchestrated.”