…slashes Lagos-London fares by 66%

Air Peace, Nigeria’s leading airline, which recently primed itself for a bigger share of the Nigeria/UK passenger market by undercutting foreign airlines by 66 per cent on airfares, says it is contending with strong internal and external conspiracies and resistance in its expansion drive.

Air Peace has pegged its economy class ticket at N1.2 million on the Lagos-London route, while findings show that foreign airlines charge an average of N3.5 million for economy class tickets from Lagos to London.

Aviation industry stakeholders and other Nigerians were excited on Saturday as over 260 passengers travelled with Air Peace on its inaugural flight from Lagos to London, seven years after the last indigenous airline, Medview, operated this most lucrative international route.

Allen Onyema, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Air Peace Airlines, says the airline is planning to begin flights to New York and Houston by the end of 2024, and is even in the process of purchasing more aircraft for this purpose.

Onyema spoke in an interview programme on Arise Television, Monday. He said Air Peace is ready and prepared to take on more flights, revealing that there are seven Air Peace flights going into Gatwick Airport from Nigeria daily.

While celebrating the beginning of Air Peace’s direct flights from Lagos to London, however, Onyema also shared the struggles and sabotage faced by his airline in trying to achieve the long-awaited Lagos-London flights.

Explaining the struggles faced, the Air Peace CEO said, “You suffer what I call both internal and external conspiracies. It took us seven years. We got the designation I think about six and a half years ago to go into London. Since then, it has been cat-and-mouse game.

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“We actually procured our three (Boeing) 777s because of this route, not for any other route… However, we were not allowed to go.

“Whether you like it or not, there is what is called international aero politics which is very dirty. We applied for the TCO. TCO means Technical Country Operators permit, you must get that one before you start going into any European country, UK inclusive. And the TCO organisation from Europe wrote our Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority- Do you know Air Peace? Do you know about their designation? And we were denied. My own country denied us, so they threw it back.

“We went back to the NCAA, they said, oh, we didn’t tell them. Who designated us, the Federal Ministry of Aviation, whose duty it was and still is to do that. We said okay, we’re ready. They refused, they said until they allow us to apply. So, we got designation from the Federal government, and the NCAA, under the same Federal Government, was telling us that we should not make any application towards going into the UK.”

Onyema then said that Nigerian airlines need all the support they could get from the Federal Government.

“In our own country, what we are pleading? – I like when you said support – the ease of doing business, let them even do that for the indigenous airlines and see us blossom, instead of badmouthing these airlines that pass through all manner of problems,” he said.

Nigeria has a booming aviation market. The total number of international passengers who passed through Nigerian airports in year 2021 were 2,219,146 as against 1,408,026 passengers in 2020. This represents 57.61 per cent growth rate. The number of arrivals in 2021 stood at 1,109,621, which was higher compared to 690,765 in 2020.

The air transport industry, including airlines and the supply chain, is estimated to support $600 million of GDP in Nigeria. Spending by foreign tourists supports a further $1.1 billion of the country’s GDP, totalling to $1.7 billion.