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Air Peace begins direct flight to UK

After six years, a Nigerian carrier, Air Peace, reactivated the bilateral air service agreement (BASA) Nigeria signed with the United Kingdom by launching a direct flight to London.

Amidst widespread plaudits and jubilation, the inaugural flight of Air Peace touched down at London Gatwick with the federal government throwing its weight behind the airline.

Daily Trust reports that no fewer than three Ministers were on ground for the inaugural flight. They are Ministers of Aviation; Trade and Investment and Foreign Affairs, Festus Keyamo, Doris Uzoka-Anite and Ambassador Yusuf Tuggar.

The foreign affairs Minister was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ambassador Adamu Lamuwa.

Daily Trust reports that some Nigerian carriers had flown the highly lucrative Nigeria-London route in the past and crashed out leaving the route with only British Airways and Virgin Atlantic doing direct flight while other Nigerians used connecting flights, spending almost a day to connect London.

Med-View Airline, which last operated the route, suspended its operation in April 2018.

However, Air Peace’s entry into the route has crashed fares even as the federal government vowed to give the airline all the support to survive on the route.

The Minister of Aviation said Air Peace’s flight to London would not only crash fares but would strengthen the naira as the airline would not be looking for dollars to repatriate like other foreign airlines.

He said the federal government is not unmindful of the aero-politics that might play out but it is ready to reciprocate if the British government comes up with any unfavourable policy.

He reiterated the policy of the federal government to support indigenous carriers to thrive.

He said: “What we are going to do is to ensure that we support local operators in accessing lease arrangements like what Air Peace is doing today (Friday). Nigeria is on a blacklist to get dry lease. That is part of what I have been undertaking since I came in. I have been trying to assure the world and aircraft manufacturers that we can protect their assets when they bring them into Nigeria.

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“This is because what they want is whether we can allow them to take these assets when there are breaches of agreements. The problem they always face is that when they bring their assets into the country, and there is a breach sometimes, because of court injunctions and local politics, they can no longer take their aircraft away. It is a huge loss to them.

“With Air Peace on the London route, there will be no problem of trapped funds. It is a local company and we don’t have to repatriate the sale of tickets through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). We will be liquid enough in terms of foreign exchange to repatriate those funds. All the airlines that come into Nigeria, what they experience is massive repatriation of funds that puts pressure on the naira because they have to seek dollars from both the commercial banks and CBN.”

Air Peace Chairman Allen Onyema explained that the London route would be a daily flight, saying the airline started the route in the interest of Nigerians who have been crying of exorbitant charges on the route.

According to him, the London route is just a tip of Air Peace’s sojourn on the international route as the airline currently flies to China, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, India, and several regional routes.

He said: “This is just a six -hour flight. A piece of cake. Air Peace flies to China on Wednesdays, 14 hours going and 14 hours coming back, no issues. We have 28 hours of flying in one day and half. Air Peace flies to India every week. 12 hours going, 13 hours coming back, no issues.
“Air Peace undertakes 160 hours of flying within this country everyday for the past seven years without blemish. What is a six-hour flight? It is a nonstarter.”

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