Play aeropolitics to protect Nigerian carriers — Air Peace charges aviation minister

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In what seemed to be a response to minister of state for aviation, Hadi Sirika’s criticism of its operations, Air Peace has blamed aviation politics for its inability to commence designated international routes.

At the 5th stakeholders’ forum held in Abuja last Thursday, Sirika had taunted Air Peace for its inability to begin flying designated international routes and wondered why an airline would acquire aircraft for international operations without utilising them.

Sirika had insisted that the Fly Nigeria Act may not work until the country’s carriers put their acts together.

Air Peace had, earlier in 2017, bought a Boeing B777 aircraft in anticipation of the commencement of its international routes. However, 9 months after the acquisition, the airline is yet to commence flights to any of the routes.

Also, a few months ago, Air Peace announced the possession of another B777 aircraft, bringing the total number of Boeing 777 in its fleet to 2.

On the acquisition and non-deployment of the 2 airliners, stakeholders at various fora had said it was a bad business plan for the airline, saying that either flown or not, some rotables in the aircraft would require change.

In a statement on Sunday, spokesman of the airline, Chris Iwarah, faulted the minister and attributed its inability to commence the routes to aviation politics.

The Federal Government had deployed Air Peace to London, Guangzhou-China, Houston, Mumbai, Johannesburg, Dubai and Sharjah over three years ago, but the airline was yet to operate into any of the long-haul routes.

Iwarah quoted the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the airline, Toyin Olajide, as saying that the authorities of most of the international destinations the carrier had been designated to operate, were either “deliberately foot-dragging in processing its application or imposing frustrating conditions to discourage it from flying into their domains”.

Some of the destination countries, she said, responded to the airline’s application only after about two years.

According to her, where the destination countries reluctantly approved the airline’s application to fly into their domains, “their authorities imposed impossible charges on it to frustrate and discourage it from acting on such approval”.

The high charges imposed on Nigerian airlines by other nations, she said, were unfortunately not responded to back home, regretting that the foreign airlines were “rather pampered” in Nigeria and given approval to operate to multiple destinations.

She dismissed the claims that domestic airlines lacked the capacity to take advantage of the Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASA) Nigeria signed with different countries.

In demonstration of its capacity, she said Air Peace was at the moment consistently operating into 14 domestic and five regional destinations, including Accra, Banjul, Dakar, Freetown and Monrovia.

Olajide maintained that Air Peace had capacity to operate into all destinations approved for it, announcing that the airline was concluding arrangements to launch its Dubai and Sharjah services before the end of the year.

In apparent response to the claim that some foreign airlines operating in Nigeria had offered 20 pilots jobs, the Air Peace COO said the carrier had, so far, directly offered jobs to more than 3,000 Nigerians, besides impacting the nation’s economy in many other respects.

She also identified the inability of airlines to operate in most of the nation’s airports once it was sunset as a great disservice to the operational capacity of the carriers.

Speaking on the suspended national carrier project, which Air Peace had criticised as being out of fashion and a drain on public resources, Olajide wondered whether it would be fair for the Federal Government to confer the planned airline with advantages not available to the existing private carriers.

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