* Carrier awaits arrival of $2.1bn Embraer, B737 planes
*$3bn lost in capital flight to foreign airlines
By Samson Echenim
As Air Peace awaits its 10 units Boeing 737 MAX aircraft ordered in 2018, Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has charged the federal government to give the airline a strong backing for its international operations.
Air Peace Lagos-Dubai operation via Sharja July 5, with its eyes on some European and Asian routes. The airline had in April, 2019 ordered 30 new Embraer 195-E2 jets at $2.1 billion about seven months after ordering 10 units of Boing 737 MAX, in an unprecedented expansion move by any airline in Africa. Between February and August 2018, Air Peace, now West Africa’s largest and fastest growing carrier received three Boing 777 aircraft making history as the first Nigerian carrier to acquire and register the type of aircraft in the country.
Reeling out woeful end of Nigerian airlines that attempted international operations due to lack of support by Nigerian government, Nogie Meggison, AON chairman said Air Peace’s survival was a major economic task for the ministry of Aviation, as the airline had become “one of the pillars to the building of our nation’s economy.”
Lamenting that foreign airlines had dominated the country’s airspace resulting in about $3bn capital flight, annually.
Meggison blamed failure of the country’s airlines on politics taken too far in the aviation sector.
“Aero politics has been the bane of airlines growth in Nigeria. We remember carriers like Bellview, Arik and Medview that operated international flights but could not do well. Specifically, Bellview was frustrated out of the India market; Arik Air was given a distant parking bay in Dubai at the far end of the terminal; Medview which was frustrated out of the London route by sheer regulatory technicalities and so called safety deficiencies, unfair slot allocation, exorbitant airport charges, levies and fees, and all forms of excuses to name a few, which are mainly to discredit the airline as a means of edging them out of the route in order to get rid of the competition the carrier posed to their own local operators on the route and to protect their own,” Meggison said in a statement.
He therefore called on the Nigerian government not to leave Air Peace but to stand tall with the airline and other Nigerian airlines and bring the “full weight of its political machinery and influence behind Air Peace to effectively protect the airline from all forms of aero politics and regulatory biases that may arise during the course of the airline’s operations into various international destinations.”
“Air Peace has taken a bold step and it should be encouraged by Nigerians. The airline’s maiden flight to Dubai means more jobs for our Nigerian youths. It means jobs for over 600 unemployed Nigerian pilots. It means hope for our various aviation training academies at NCAT, Zaria, International Aviation College, Ilorin and the International Helicopter Flying School, Enugu.
“It also means more travel choices for Nigerian travellers at affordable rates. It means more contribution to the Nigerian economy and GDP. It means increased growth for the Nigerian aviation sector. It means the transfer of technology and technical expertise and it also means a reduction in capital flight from the country by foreign airlines. Government therefore needs to rally round Air Peace as a proud Nigerian operator and give the airline all the support to succeed,” the economic pressure group chief said.