DOMESTIC airline Air Peace has commenced international operations with its inaugural flight to the Dubai/ Sharjah Airport in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) under the first phase of its expansionist programme.
One of Nigeria’s fastest-growing domestic airlines, Air Peace prices itself on being very professional and even has an all-female crew on some of its flights. Yesterday, on Friday July 5, the airline took the gigantic step of commencing international operations in the first step of an ambitious global plan designed to make it a model airline that can compete with all the major operators.
According to Air Peace, it intends to build on this with flights to Houston in the US, London in the UK, Mumbai in India and Guangzhou, in China soon. Under the first phase of the plan, the airline will fly to the UAE three times a week using one of its Boeing 777s.
Air Peace set a domestic record as the first Nigerian airline to acquire and register the Boeing 777 aircraft in the country. Three of the four wide-body aircraft it acquired for its planned long-haul operations to Dubai, Sharjah, Johannesburg, London, Houston, Guangzhou and Mumbai have so far been delivered.
Aviation expert Andrew Curran, said: “The ties between Nigeria and the UAE extend beyond oil. Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa with a population tipped to reach 400m by 2050, so its fast population growth and a rising gross domestic product (GDP) offer significant investment opportunities.
“The UAE is already one of the largest investors in West Africa. This new Air Peace flights between Lagos and Sharjah can leverage from these links.”
However, industry watchers have called on the airline to be very conscious of its choice of destinations as Middle East routes are currently dominated by big world airlines like Emirates and Qatar Airlines, who are capable of deliberately cutting fares in order to run a competitor out of the routes. Some frequent travellers, said, however, that they are confident that Air Peace will not make the same mistakes other domestic Nigeria airlines who ventured into the Middle East routes made.
Engineer Benedict Adeyileka, the former director-general of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority and current rector of the International Aviation College, Ilorin, said: “This is a brilliant idea by Air Peace and it is a good thing for Nigeria. It is about time Nigerian airlines rose to the challenges posed by capital flight, boosting employment and helping the economy.
“Now, going to Sharjah, I know is going to be challenging because I know we will be competing with big airlines like Emirates. However, it is a good thing as Nigerians from records have always patronised Nigeria airlines but to be honest with you, Nigeria airlines have not performed well.
“They have disappointed the passengers and they have not been managed properly, although this is partly due to unfair competition we get from overseas countries. If any Nigerian airline operates internationally, I will patronise them as I have patronized Arik Air and MedView when the two airlines were going to Europe and Arik to America.”