…to expand fleet, operations to West Coast, Intercontinental
Posted by Sade Williams
United Nigeria Airline (UNA), which began domestic operation 12 months ago, has airlifted over 260, 000 passengers during the period.
The airline specifically, started operations on February 12, 2021 with four aircraft but has now increased fleet to five in one year.
At a briefing on the activities of the airline during the year under review, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, chairman of United Nigeria Airline, said the year was turbulent but the airline swam through as a result of determination and hard work.
According to him, in 24 hours of the final approval with Air Operators’ Certificate (AOC) last year, it took to the skies while within six hours of opening the flight, it had almost 90 percent passenger load.
“The past one year has been for us, an eye opener. It has brought us to real terms with the delicate processes of managing an airline in Nigeria. While Nigeria may be a peculiar case, we reckon that airline operations in our great country comes with challenges that we believe, are systematically tailored towards Nigeria. I can assure you that while it has not been a roller-coaster journey, it has however been a worthy experience.
“I can affirm that we are here for the long haul. Starting off on February 12, 2021, amidst Covid-19 disruptions, with inaugural and commercial flight operations to Enugu and Lagos from Abuja, we have today expanded our operations to reach Owerri, Port Harcourt, Asaba, Yenagoa and lately, Osubi in Warri and Anambra airports.
“We have enjoyed our customer client patronage and confidence ever since then. It has been a year that has seen whole lot of challenges, no doubt. But beyond all those, we have seen great achievements in our strategic plan, our expansion plan, our growth plan. We had opened new locations. We have also increased our fleet from an initial 4 Embraer 145 aircraft to include one Airbus A320. We have also worked as close as possible with the regulatory agencies: Ministry of Aviation, the NCAA which has been working so hard, FAAN, NAMA etc to sustain a very robust working relationship.
“We are very happy and proud of their efforts to strengthen and improve things in the aviation industry. We have also enjoyed very productive year of client relationship. During the period, we have united over 260,000 passengers with their destinations peacefully, comfortably and safely operating 40 daily flights. That represents 75 percent of our total capacity. We took off in February reaching Lagos, Abuja, Enugu and Asaba after demo flights in January 2021. In April we opened up the Owerri and Port Harcourt wings and in May, we responded to demand by creating additional flights to Lagos and Abuja. We hit Yenagoa in July becoming the only airline operating into Bayelsa International Airport.
“We further responded to high demand on the Owerri, Asaba and Enugu routes by creating additional flights to those airports in November and in December, we started flying into the newly built Anambra Cargo Airport at Umueri. Through this, we have created over 500 direct jobs and more than a thousand indirect jobs. We are now in the process of expanding our domestic operations to reach, in the next few weeks, Benin, Kano, Jigawa and Yola. These are part of our immediate expansion programme as we work to ensure that none of our aircraft remains on ground. They belong to the skies and that is where they must be.”, he said.
Speaking on expansion plans, Okonkwo said the airline intends to increase its fleet and add wider body aircraft.
”Our plan here is to grow at our own pace. We plan that within the next 12 months, we see ourselves doubling the number of our fleets with larger passenger capacity aircraft. This is because it was our strategic plan to start with smaller body aircraft with 50 passenger capacity to develop and strengthen our operations. Having achieved that, we are now ready to introduce bigger body aircrafts as add-ons. Hopefully, we will add two aircrafts every quarter till the end of the year. That will give us the opportunity to expand our operations even beyond our borders.
”With the expansion of our fleets comes the extension of our operations into the West Coast region and then, obviously, continental. This also comes with the strengthening of our staff strength and our capacity in the area of human power. These are the things we are going to do because we need strong human resource to be able to deliver decent services within this expansion projections.”, he added.
Within this growth plan, Okonkwo said he is looking forward to establishing a Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility in Enugu, adding that the airline is already in talks with the regulatory authorities and the Enugu state government.