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17th October, 2019.
Chief Allen Onyema, Chairman/CEO, Air Peace

Our Dubai operations is going on seamlessly - Onyema

The chairman and chief executive officer of Air Peace, Allen Onyema speaks on the operations of the airline and effort by it to link Nigeria to the world and the challenges, among others

* How are you copping with the issue of destination imbalance?

The Federal government has intervened and the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, is trying to address these issues of destination imbalance whereby multiple frequencies and designations are given to foreign airlines, the government is addressing all that.

* How is your Dubai operations coming up given what we know of the terrain?

Our Dubai operations is going on seamlessly, our waiting time, the delay over period is very short, in some cases one hour. Some people think that Sharjah is far from Dubai, no, it is not, is just 15 minutes, is even closer to some parts of Dubai than Dubai Airports.

Because of the trekking you do before you get to the immigration check point, some of passengers trek up to two hours, by which time somebody who landed in Sharjah has gone to his hotel and probably sleeping.

Sharjah has a smaller airport, so when you land there, those long formalities and long trekking are not there, you just walk to the immigration counter and within 15minutes you are out of that airport and you are in your hotel in Dubai.

For our economy passengers, we have buses that will take them to Dubai, it takes just 15 minutes and we drop them at Diera and for business and first class passengers because our planes have business and first classes, we give you limousine to take you to your hotel and the day you are going back, we come and pick you from the hotel to the airport.

Nigerians should be patriotic enough to patronise their own, we do not have the kind of money Emirates have, using state money for their operations and that is unfair completion, which was what led to the airline being pushed out of America, because they were using all manner of tactics, using state funds to run airlines, which is not always allowed, is an unfair competition. But America government stepped in immediately and cut down many frequencies given to them and it affected them and they withdrew. Now in Nigeria, they are doing all sorts of things, they have done it to Arik Air, done it to Virgin Nigeria, done it to Medview Air and now is Air Peace.

Failing on that route is not the fault of Nigerian airlines because they employ unfair competition, using state funds to compete, they can afford to slash their fares as low as 90 per cent just to push you out and when they push you out, they will come back to gain all they lost all over again.

* How can this situation be addressed then to safeguard Nigerian airlines, like Air Peace?

Nigerians should also be patriotic enough to patronise their own, there so much the government can do in this circumstance. But it is for the people to understand that this is their own airline, in-terms of pricing, your own will be your own.

What I did in South Africa, no airline under the sun can do that, even government will find it difficult to do, but we did it because is our country, they cannot do that. All the 34 airlines operating into Nigeria has not employed up to 350 Nigerians as at today and they remit billions back to their country on annual basis more than us and Air Peace alone has 3, 200 Nigerians working directly under it and with about 9, 000 ancillary jobs. So, why can we not support our own? What are they providing that others can not provide? They lure you with all sorts of things and you end up paying for it. When the country economy is going down, you will end up paying all these little things they are offering you. What tour operators and travel agencies should be asking Air Peace is to make sure that your equipment are safe and top notch. That is what should bother Nigerians.

* But are you willing to work with these tour operators and travel agents in reversing this trend?

Of course, we are ready and willing to work with them in creative different luxury packages and incentives to entice Nigerians and other nationals to our country flying with us through our global operations.

You know these foreign airlines entice them with all sorts of packages, what we have also done for the Dubai route is that wherever you are in Nigeria, Air Peace will fly you there, which they will not do, we use our local flights to bring you to Lagos, put you on our air conditioned bus and take you to the international airport, whether you are coming from Kano, Uyo, Enugu, or wherever, once you book with us, you are our property and when you come back, we pick you from the international airport and take you to the local airport and put you in our planes.

* What has been the responses so far to your operations?

A lot of people are used to what they are used to, but we are doing well, we are not doing badly at all, especially for economy class passengers. But the premium class passengers, that is, the business class passengers and the first class passengers, are still tied to where they are tied to before.

They do not believe any other airline can offer the same services they are getting where they are, which is a lie, our planes are first class, we have good business class and first class, with very wide seats and all that, we have very sweet planes. We are doing well, what we are doing is very encouraging, we would do more with the support of the government and Nigerians.

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