‘Air Peace acquired 24 aircraft in two-and-half years’
November 9, 2017 | 1:01 am| | | Start Conversation
In a bid to interline with global carriers and facilitate process of commencing international operations, Air Peace airline successfully received membership certificate from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) last week. In an interview with Ifeoma Okeke, Allen Onyema, Chairman/CEO of Air Peace, speaks of the airline’s preparations to go beyond the shores of the country and the impeding factors.
What countries are you looking at going into soon?
We are not oblivious of international politics. What reasons will any country give for not allowing AirPeace come into their country? If the world body that is saddled with identification of those who are doing it right have deemed us fit to be given such certification, they should allow us be. We have already started to have plans on code share agreements and interline agreements. We have two airlines that are integrating with us now. Beyond this, is the effect of the international aero politics which is not favourable to Africa countries, especially Nigeria. With these international certifications, they should stop making it difficult for Nigerian airlines to fly into certain countries using disrespectful reasons. Air Peace has not been stopped but we have seen those who have been stopped.
The federal government of Nigeria has given us flying rights to represent Nigeria as their flag carrier into China, Dubai, Johannesburg, Mumbai, and London. We have made our applications to those places. Our applications are receiving attention, especially in Dubai, where we have also received permit from those countries to come into their country. We shall in due course announce our commencement date into UAE very soon. For some others, we shall address the press on how they are receiving us.
Are you encountering challenges from the governments of the countries you plan to commence operations?
A lot of foreign airlines do not want domestic airlines to succeed because of what they are getting from Nigeria. I am not against any airline flying into Nigeria but they should also allow us come into their own country. They give all manner of reasons to stop us but it cannot continue and if it continues, I will go to court. We applied to Senegal since 2015, not a single mail from them, but with the intervention of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Senegal has now written Air Peace and permitted us to come into their country. Cameron after two and half years, have agreed to allow us to come in. Sierra Leone, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia have allowed us come into their country. But one challenge has been the area of charges. Côte d’Ivoire gave us charges their own airline was not paying and no airline can succeed with that amount. The federal government is looking into it. Very soon, Air Peace will start traversing the length and breadth of about nine countries in West Africa. Our airplanes are coming in soon. We have the equipment.
Do you have plans to acquire new aircraft into these various locations?
We started with four Boeing 737 aircraft and three Donair jets but we later sold some of our Donair jets. As I speak to you today, we have 24 aircraft under a space of two and half years. This will not have been possible if we are not financially disciplined. It is our integrity and God almighty that has led us this far. We have enough equipment to do whatever we want to do. On the domestic scene, we are already saturated.
Is it true that domestic airlines have limited aircraft to carry out their operations effectively?
I am not against airlines with two or three aircraft; it depends on their business model. You can have only two aircraft and decide to fly only to Makurdi. If they don’t overstretch themselves, they will succeed. Aviation industry is already saturated with aircraft. AirPeace has 14 Boeing 737, six ERJ 145 jets, Boeing 777. It is only in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt you can have four airlines flying and get some considerable revenue. Every other place, you can put more than two airlines there and they compete successfully.
A place like Owerri, Enugu, Kano and Calabar, which are the secondary ones, airlines carry half or less than half load. We are operating with about seven aircraft domestically. We have about 11 aircraft coming in between now and second week of December, with the seven we are operating now, it is already saturated. When we bring in 11 aircraft, even Air Peace will have very small load factor. I pulled out of Uyo Abuja route because I do not want to hurt myself and hurt any other airline. We discovered that Dana and Airpeace were carrying less than 50percent capacity on Uyo Abuja route. So, we decided that one airline should do it. For Lagos Uyo route, AirPeace and Dana were doing up to 60percent. Lack of domestic traffic is one of the factors accounting for failure of domestic airline. We are the only one going to Akure, I dropped the price to N10,000. This price cannot sustain the cost of operations but we did it to encourage people to fly. As the only airline going there from Lagos, we still cannot carry 60percent capacity. If another airline goes into Akure, both of us will go down on that route. As an airline, you need about 75percent load factor with the right fares to break even.
How have you been able to operate with the current scarcity of aviation fuel?
AirPeace has fuel because of our integrity. Even during scarcity, AirPeace is flying because I am sure most fuel vendors will want to sell to AirPeace because we fulfil our promises. We do not like to owe anybody. We are financially disciplined. Some people borrow money in Nigeria without intention of paying back. This affects your integrity as a business person. In AirPeace, we do not borrow out of limit. The banks are even chasing us to give us money. When we borrow, we make sure we pay back. Our vision is that in the next two years, we will double our fleet, for international operations.
Big Read |