By Adekunle Williams/Solomon Asowata
Nigerian carrier, Air Peace, has taken delivery of one of its newly acquired Boeing 777-200 aircraft in preparation for its commencement of international operations.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the 274 capacity aircraft, christened “Ikechukwu “, touched down at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos at about 3.30 pm on Friday.
The aircraft, which was flown in by Capt. Victor Efionu and his team, was received by the Chairman of Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema and other top aviation personnel.
Onyema said Air Peace recently began flights to Banjul, Freetown and Dakar on the West Coast of Africa, stressing that it would soon start flights on international destinations including Dubai, Guangzhou-China, London, Houston, Mumbai and South Africa.
“Air Peace is ready to begin operations on these routes as soon as we get the cooperation of our aviation agencies, our home governments, and the outside governments of the countries we are going to .
As soon as we get their cooperation, we will make it happen, ” Onyema said.
According to him, what Air Peace has done in less than three years of operations shows clearly that Nigerian airlines can compete and even perform better than the legacy airlines if there is a level playing field.
” This is the first time a Nigerian carrier is acquiring a B777. What we have had in the past is through leases which were not favourable to the airline operators.
“So, I don’t believe that Nigerian airlines cannot compete favourably with the others. What we have been lacking is the necessary support.
“Within the last three years, we have been able to increase our fleet size to 24 aircraft. That is rapid growth and we are still growing stronger,” he said.
Onyema further dispelled insinuations that Nigerian airlines were not safe, noting that Air Peace spent up to $2.5 million annually in maintaining a single aircraft on its fleet.
“So, in terms of safety, we can assure our guests of the very best because even our technical partners is a firm from the United Kingdom.
“Air Peace cannot be said to be weak or indebted and if there are airlines that are going through that, they should come out and name them instead of generalising, ” he added.
The Air Peace chairman also reiterated his opposition to the Single African Air Transportation Market (SAATM), stressing that it was of little or no benefit to Nigerian airlines.
He said currently, the treaty does not favour Nigeria because other countries use high charges to discourage Nigerian airlines from operating to their cities.
According to him, when their own airlines come to Nigeria, they pay relatively less charges than what they level Nigerian carriers.
Air Peace now has 14 aircraft on its fleet, with 11 Boeing 737, one B777 and 2 Embraer 135/145. Four of the latter have been ordered, according to the company’s website.