The Communication Manager Air Peace Airline Mr. Chris Iwarah in this exclusive interview with the Publisher Nigerian NewsDirect,Dr Samuel Ibiyemi speaks on challenges of indigenous Airlines in Nigeria, expansion plans of the airline and other sundry issues. Excerpts.
What are the plans of Air Peace for 2018?
The first thing I think we have to talk about is our pledge to deepen connectivity, we are going to deepen connectivity across three projects. For instance, we are looking at the domestic project, the internal project and the international projects
Charity they say begins at home, we want to specially focus on the northern part of Nigeria.It is not as if we decided to neglect the north initially but there are certain parameters. Though, it was easy for us to look at these parameters and quickly launch to the south-south, south east and the south west to an extent but for the north, it was a bit challenging
What are the challenges?
The first challenge here is the passenger load; you have to be in business to contribute, if you look at some roads in the north, passengers’ load is not as good as you have it in the east and in the south just because people don’t travel. Although, you may have different modes of transportation but all that is changing now.
When you also look at the facilities, those available may not support what you want to do. If you take for example, a place like Kastina, the Airport is hardly utilized. The airport is only open for use when political figures or major events happens in the state.
But we have also studied a bit about the environment; we knew that it is not just about the passenger load, if the passenger load is not encouraging, there is something to be done and that’s why we have different Aircraft types.
Also, you will find out that we are bringing in some new aircrafts that has the capacity to carry 50 passengers and with that,we can do a whole lot. We can start more operations not just for the north alone. For instance, a place like Asaba in Delta state, the airport could not handle our Boeing 737 because the runway is not good enough to handle our aircraft. As a safety cautious organization, we have to suspend our flight operations to Asaba, though we learnt the runway is under reconstruction. However, I can’t confirm the state of the runway at the moment, but if we can fix our ember 1-4-5 and have them on ground, then we can deliver shortly.
We can begin operation in some of these places. For instance, Warri is a busy route. But we can’t have Boeing 737. So, it’s not just for the north alone now but even some part of the east and south west are affected, we have cases like Ibadan, Ilorin among others that are not regular route for most airlines.
But if we have smaller aircrafts, we want to quickly cover those routes. They are quick, they are fast and they are more cost effective unlike the 737.
So, this is the situation we are looking at. But now that our ember fleets are coming, we are now empowered to execute plans we have for the year 2018.
This is because we want to democratize flying experience, and we believe everybody should be able to fly, because we will make it affordable with quality service for all at affordable rate.
We are also going to have a situation where we will deepen connectivity around Nigeria. This won’t just be limited to Nigeria but also when we take the west route of Africa, these are routes dominated by foreign airlines.
Domestically, we are doing well, we want to take advantage of the open sky agreement and so it is not a one way thing.
We believe Nigeria is a market even for foreign airlines. There are some airlines that are always coming to Nigeria but nobody is even thinking of going there because there is no market there.
We are already in Accra and we are pushing further, if we can do Freertown, Banjul and Dakar, you know what that means. We are looking at a total of about nine routes in West Africa.
What of Central and East Africa?
We have not tried that, it needs further study. We need to study the market before venturing into it, it is very essential. Johannesburg is part of the international route we are looking at as a place where there are challenges, does it help Nigeria, does it help us, and does it help Africa.
What are you doing to acquire the 7-4-7 Aircraft
We have looked at our route and we have provided two Boeing 777. They are big body aircrafts. Those are the aircrafts we are bringing for our long route. We are bringing these aircrafts during the first quarter of 2018.The capacity is over 300 and we are starting with two.
What are the immediate challenges you can identifiy with indigenous airlines?
It is a reality that aviation activities across the world is challenging. The challenges may be in form of infrastructure and multiple taxation; Also the cost of fuelling as it takes about 40% of the cost of operation because the cost price of jet A1 is very high. The global figure for Aviation shows that fueling alone gulps about 40% of running cost. And when you put Nigeria into consideration, it costs more than that.
We don’t joke with maintenance it is a regulated environment and we value the lives of people above every other thing.
What is the vision?
We have a solid environment and the vision that drives us here is to create jobs much more than we need to be able to connect people.In connecting people, you just don’t create jobs alone but it has to rest on the kind of connectivity we are going to create.
In connectivity, you create direct and indirect jobs and if you are in business you are going to contribute to the economy. Aircraft needs regulations and there are series of approval before they can be put to use.
When are we expecting Air peace in Europe and United States?
We can’t say for now we have six routes now. We are taking them one after the other. We talk of Dubai, India, China, Houston, and Johannesburg. These are the six places we are going and we are likely to start the route soonest because those are the places we have approved.
What are the main things that separate Air peace from any other Airlines
For our international routes, we are still keeping it to chest. In terms f domestic operations and West Africa, the first thing people should look out for is safety and that’s a key factor for us. We have some of the best facility to maintain our fleet.
We are doing everything to sustain and challenge ourselves. Challenges come sometimes just like we have now. We have to cancel some flight because of the harmattan, and we just have to let it go because there is nothing we can do about poor visibility. Safety is the key issue and you will agree with me that traveling by air is more preferable than road.
And that is why we maintain our crafts just like our competitors maintain theirs too people should be encouraged and be satisfied by the service we provide.
What’s your perspective to the issue of global security in the aviation sector in 2018?
Security is becoming more challenging and the aviation sector is also thinking ahead as the challenge is unfolding. Three are new rules and they are dynamic. Until we have the Christmas day bomber certain rules we have was not there until our eyes was open to a new rule.
Since security is becoming tougher, new security measures are being put in place and security agencies across the world are up to the task