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As Air Peace Moves to End Duopoly, Exploitation on Lagos-London Route - THISDAY

MARCH 01, 2024

The United Kingdom is Nigeria’s most visited country in Europe and the route is deemed one of the most lucrative from Nigeria, but over the years, two UK based airlines have enjoyed a duopoly, which makes the airfares to that destination very exorbitant. Nigerian carrier, Air Peace is primed to commence flight service to London on March 20, 2023. Chinedu Eze writes that the airline will knock down the fares to save Nigerians from many years of exploitation.

When Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), which took over Arik Air in February 2017, stopped the airline’s flight operation to London, airfares to that destination from Nigeria rose by 40 per cent, according to insiders in the airline.

In the recent past, three Nigerian airlines operated to London. Arik Air operated to London Heathrow, the defunct Virgin Nigeria Airways operated to Gatwick, Medview Airline operated to Gatwick  and now, Air Peace Limited had been designated to operate to Gatwick. In 2009, Virgin Nigeria Airways stopped its stint with long haul service to London and Johannesburg; in 2017 Arik Air under AMCON receivership stopped flights to London, New York and Johannesburg and in 2018, Medview stopped its flight to London.

THISDAY learnt that there is consistent trend when Nigerian airlines operate international destinations, airfares to those destinations come down. It happened with Arik Air, Virgin Nigeria and Medview and Air Peace has already announced relatively low airfares.

Air Peace London Operation

Last week, Air Peace announced to travel agents that it would commence flights to London and the airport would be Gatwick. The Chairman and CEO of the airline, Dr Allen Onyema said that the Air Peace London route was borne out of his love for Nigeria and to put an end to high fares from Nigeria to London and back, promising that the airline would give Nigerians the best option in terms of fares.

Currently direct flight to London from Lagos on economy class as at Tuesday, British Airways round trip economy class cost 788 pounds, equivalent to about N2, 357, 900 and one-way ticket was 565 pounds, equivalent to N1, 629, 535. Virgin Atlantic Airways Lagos-London ticket was $1, 460 (about 2, 357, 900) for cheapest round trip or return ticket.

Air Peace announced on Wednesday that its Return Economy Class Ticket goes for N1,200,000 while a Return Business Class Ticket sells for N4,000,000, adding that Nigerians studying in the UK can now access their special 15% rebate on the already reduced Economy fares. 

Although the airline initially requested to operate to Heathrow Airport, but when it was given Gatwick it realised that the airport has its advantages for Nigerian passengers.

“Many of our people live down South East part of London and there is heavy traffic into Central London from Heathrow, but at Gatwick, they allotted Southern terminal to Air Peace and when you get to south terminal, you get out of immigration, take your luggage, you walk into the Gatwick express train within three minutes and that will take you to Victoria, right into Central London. From the south terminal you have access to tube, you have access to national rail and you have access to road transport to other parts of UK. So, Gatwick has turned out to even be better for us. That’s why we took Gatwick,” Onyema explained.


Onyema also explained that Air Peace would operate daily flight into London and besides its three Boeing B777,  Air Peace is also bringing three brand new Boeing B787 Dreamliners, to join the operation.

He added, “We are going to do something different, exceptionally different. The competition is going to be massive and explosive. Nigerians will see something they have never seen before because if you are not prepared for this kind of competition, you get yourself burnt. We are going to give our customers the best.  Air Peace will be on that route to provide a difference, make airfares affordable for people, make it seamless with respect. It is going to be a different ballgame.

“Our unique service starts with the equipment we are going to use. It starts with the capacity we want to bring into the market, the ambience, everything you can think of, we have them. So it is left for Nigerians now to patronize their own. And I am really pleased with the Nigerian traveling agencies, their union. They came up with a slogan, ‘Air Peace Our Own’. Some even printed T-shirts, ‘Save the Naira, Fly Air Peace’.”

Affordable fares

Former President of National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Bankole Bernard said that Air Peace’s London flight is a welcome idea, especially as Nigeria would now have its own carrier creating balance of trade which in the past tilted to one side.

“There will be a bit of balance. Air Peace has been given a daily slot to Gatwick which amounts to seven frequencies, compared to 21 frequencies that the legacy airlines have; 14 in Lagos and seven in Abuja. To an extend, we have something that will balance it up.  Air Peace is not going to be faced with challenges of foreign exchange because the fares will be in naira. It is a welcome idea for travel agents and Nigeria as a whole. We appeal to Air Peace to try its best to sustain the London route. We are willing to give them all the support to ensure this is successful. With Air Peace, travel agents envisage a 50 percent fare reduction in fares,” Bernard said.

Alternative Choice

The Managing Director of Flight and Logistics Solutions Limited, Amos Akpan, said the commencement of Air Peace flight to London will give Nigerians better choices and create opportunity for affordable fares and competitive pricing.

“There are few families in Nigeria that do not have relatives in UK. Concerning international trips, Nigerians travel to UK more than other countries because of historical ties. The first benefit of Air Peace operating to London is the choice. Nigerians can now choose between their carrier and foreign carriers. Air Peace fare will definitely not be as high as the fare charged by the current operators on the route. For example, Air Peace management has already announced their intention to create special fare for students on the London Route.

“Nigerians will not need to travel to Togo and Accra to catch a London bound flight because the fares from these stations are lower than the fares from Lagos and Abuja. The Nigerian travel agencies will now have a wider customer base to catch because lower fares will encourage people to travel. Air peace demand on foreign currency from our Central Bank may not likely rise for Operating the route because she will earn foreign currency from the London Route Operations,” Akpan said.

He also noted that Air Peace operating the London route will benefit parents, students, Nigerians in UK, the air travel industry, and the government of Nigeria.

Advising Air Peace, Akpan said the airline should first target travelers who transit through other African countries to UK, observing that these segment of travelers would be easier catch because Air Peace will save them the inconveniences of transit – waiting time, connection issues, overzealous immigration controls at the transit stations, costs associated with multiple stops.

“My point is that Air Peace should aim to first capture these segments as their low hanging fruits. Simultaneously, Air Peace will keep courting various strata of current and potential travelers on the route,” he said.

Akpan also said that Air Peace should dedicate resources to understanding the British Civil Aviation politics. Find out their sensitivities and how they relate with operators. It should also “drag officers of the Nigerian high commission into every issue concerning Air Peace in UK so they appreciate the workings of the airline operations. They will confidently assist with knowledge.”

He emphasized that Air Peace is technically and operationally competent to operate international flights and has proven so, but each environment has its peculiarities, which the operator must contain to remain in operation.

“Air Peace must be clear on her business case for the route. Be clear on the micro vision of London route as it fits into the overall corporate vision of the company.  It’s a journey that requires intentional steps by following a strategic path. It will take time and commitment to build the route. Established operators on the route will not sit back and let Air Peace woo and capture their customers. That some flights may not carry full load initially should not discourage them but should be treated as route development investment.

“The Air Peace team should quickly research on how to link passengers on to connections beyond Gatwick airport. Air Peace already has a strong network of connections in Nigeria and West Africa under the same Air Peace brand. The task now is how the team will integrate these connections to meet the travelers’ needs on the route. For instance, a Nigerian in Ireland would want to travel with Air Peace from Gatwick through Abuja to Kano; or from Gatwick through Lagos to Uyo. It’s better to plan on areas of strength so that you can remain on the route in spite of competition, “he said.


On the choice of Gatwick, Akpan said, “Other operators on the route are established and strong. Heathrow airport offers multiple connections to destinations beyond London. But Air Peace has what it takes to enter the route and carve its niche market on that route. There are possibilities available from Gatwick if strategically well planned. Air Peace has advantage as a Nigerian carrier on the route because most travelers on the Lagos/Abuja – London Route are Nigerians. All Air Peace should do is give Nigerians better offer. Engage native marketers while you offer world class services. Delays and excuses with blame games not acceptable in this arena.”

“Most importantly, Air Peace need financial muscle to stay competitive on the route where mega carriers with access to long tenor single digit facilities operate. They do not need financial grant or bail out, they just need to access funds on terms that allow them remain in business to repay. I repeat that Air Peace has the technical and operational competence for operate international flights and they have been certified, moreso, they’ve repeatedly proven so,” Akpan added.

Schedule integrity

Many who spoke to THISDAY flogged the issue of on time performance, saying that in such competitive environment, it is excellent service that will keep the airline successfully on the route.

Secretary General of Aviation Round Table (ART), Mr. Olumide Ohunayo said schedule integrity is key to retention of passengers on the route and also retain service providers in airport environment, noting that once the airline’s schedules are not reliable, for instance, the airline might have difficulty in meeting with their services because, “if you delay, they would go to another airline and and this will affect the timing on when they scheduled to serve you.”

“So, I expect schedule reliability, which is very important and key for this route that they have started. I am very happy that we have a Nigerian airline on the route that is opening the space and that Nigeria can do it. I think the government should not be far away to respond to every aero political demand and issues affecting operations from Air Peace management. That is our flag carrier and by virtue of that they have to be supported. Again I expect them to talk to airlines to take some of their passengers beyond London and within the UK itself.”

“I think that is also very important. I am sure it will be success story because Nigerians are fed up with the crazy fares that these other airlines have brought. In the beginning, we were made to believe that Virgin was going to lower its fares  when they came to the route and got it approved. But today they are benchmarking these fares with another British operator. So it is only Air Peace that can change the narrative for us. Just like Bellview did before by introducing 2bags and 23kg, I expect some innovations that would make  Nigerians feel happy that a Nigerian airline has joined the route. I am happy for them, I just hope they would work on their schedule reliability,” Ohunayo said. Cutting cost, providing excellent service and on time performance are the keys many believe will unlock success for Air Peace on the Lagos-London route.


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