Air Peace CEO: Why we’re re-fleeting with brand new jets

Barrister Allen Onyema



Barrister ALLEN ONYEMA is CEO/Chairman, Air Peace. In this interview monitored on Channels TV by the publisher of The Travelport, SADE WILLIAMS, he speaks about the ongoing acquisition of brand new Embraer jets, the need to make Forex available to airlines and why the airline is growing fast, among others



What informed your change of some aircraft in your fleet to regional jets?

In 2014 when Air Peace berthed, it was within our business plan to plan appropriately for the future, so we knew that right from 2014, at this stage in time, we should transit to some regional jets because of efficiency, safety and other parameters. And that is the latest aircraft in town now, not just in Nigeria, it is Embraer’s latest invention, the newest in aviation industry worldwide and we decided to key into it in other to give Nigerians the best. Nigerians have been yearning for brand new planes, not that the old planes are not good, but we decided to give them brand new planes.

Not even the COVID-19 will stop your plans?

That is the power of planning, the power of ensuring that you execute your plans to the letter, we have paid for the aircraft before COVID, what we have to pay this time was just the balance of payment for delivery. So, majority of the payments have been done before COVID set in. However, we have to pay some money at this time but getting Forex is very tedious, it was very difficult but we thank the Central Bank of Nigeria for coming to our aid.

Don’t you think it’s time to consolidate your network like others are doing at this time?

There is no doubt the COVID pandemic has devasted the aviation world, airlines are the worst hit. But we do our home work very well, our Johannesburg route is doing very well, we saw the gap and moved into it, we have the equipment, we have B777s, we have three four B777, we deployed them, we started the Dubai route, In fact, we want to start the India and China route, we are just waiting for the flying permit and once we get it we go into Guangzhou. We have resumed our regional routes; we are flying about six countries in West Africa. What we are doing is to ensure Nigerians are not left in the hands of foreign airlines where they pay through their noses to trave. Air Peace is closing that gap and I know foreign airlines are not happy about it but we really have to do something fir our country.

How are you dealing with cost of expansion, training, maintenance and others?

It has not been easy but the thrust of setting up this airline was to create jobs, a lot of people are surprised that in the midst of these difficulties, we are still doing well, we recalled all our staff, we reinstated all of them to pre-COVID salaries, no airline has done that all over the world, because the thrust of creating the airline is to give jobs to the critical mass of unemployed people in Nigeria, I didn’t float Air Peace to line my pockets, I keep pushing everything back to the airline, I don’t divert money coming from the airline and instead I put into it from my businesses because I discovered that airline business creates a lot of jobs and that is why we are still doing what we are doing.. we are still employing Cabin crew, pilots recently, I announced that we needed graduate Engineers. Air Peace is for the Nigerian masses and people.

What is your maintenance culture like at Air Peace?

Safety is watchword. When we started, we out-sourced our maintenance to a British company, we brought in the Israelis for the B777s, for the brand new Embraer jets, Embraer company itself has sent in their Engineers, they are here with us.  So, when it comes to maintenance, I don’t think any of the legacy airlines in the first world can say we are not doing what they were doing, we might even be doing better because the NCAA, under the regime of captain Musa Nuhu, is very serious about safety, he doesn’t want anything to be left untouched. The NCAA safety regime is breeding heavily on airlines, it has to be top notch for it to fly, no comprise. The kind of oversight function gets to bare on airlines is high, not even the first world dies that. Nigerians should be proud of their own.

What is your view about SAATM?

SAATM is a noble idea. The Nigerian government has signed into it, it encourages connectivity, it is more expensive to travel from Nigeria to Niger or Gabon than travel from Nigeria to UK. So, SAATM is very noble. However, some ither African countries are not obeying the rules. They try to stop Nigerian airlines from coming in, Nigeria allows them to come in in obedience to the treaty but it is the other way round when you get there. I remember applying to Ivory Coast, they will frustrate you, Togo too. They want to protect their own airlines. Until I wanted to go to court to stop an airline from coming into Nigeria, that was when they gave us the permit but the kind of bills they will slam on you in their countries is like paying $10,000 each tome you land, how many people are you carrying on that plane?, however, our government is doing something about it. Nigerian government is being civil, the others are not. But now Nigeria is fighting back. Recently, they are banning some airlines, you can see the reciprocity.

How do you plan to compete with the likes of Ethiopian airlines and Kenya Airways in the regional market?

Ethiopian airlines started flying in 1959, it celebrated its first 100 planes about two years ago, over also sixty years. Air Peace started in 2014, in six and a half years, Air Peace has acquired 49 aircraft. It means that in the next ten years, we might overtake them if we continue doing what we are doing and getting the support of our government like we are getting now, government has given airlines zero duty and signed it into law, if we have all those parameters that support aviation, Nigerian airlines will get there and overtake them. We can be number one in Africa; I mean the Nigerian aviation not just Air Peace because we have the population. Nigerian government is trying to create the enabling environment.

Do you plan to join any of the global alliances?

These alliances are like a cartel but we are taking it one after the other. We saw what happened during the lockdown, when airlines were bus ferrying their people, we have launched ourselves on the international scenes powerfully, when airlines were busy carrying their people from other countries, Air peace came out to help Nigeria, we went to China, India, other government started hiring Air Peace, we flew for the Israeli government on three occasions, the first ever in sixty years, direct flight to Tel Aviv. We’ve kind of closed that gap and I am proud to be a Nigerian.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *