Air Peace is the only Nigerian airline operating on the Sharjah Dubai route amid strong competition from the Middle East carriers and others.
The airline which has been growing in leaps and bounds within a short period of its existence has carved a niche for itself in the Nigerian aviation industry. The airline has been consistent on both the domestic and regional routes, while also consolidating its operations on the Dubai route.
The chairman of the airline, chief Allen Onyema demonstrated his genuine love for his country and extra ordinary social responsibility when he volunteered to bring back Nigerians affected by the xenophobic attacks in South Africa at no cost.
In this interview with members of the Association of Nigerian Journalists and Writers of Tourism, ANJET, in his office in Lagos, chief Allen Onyema speaks on the airline’s unique services on the route like offer of Limousine services to First and Business Class passengers from Sharjah to Dubai, multiple frequencies to foreign airlines, how far with its Dubai operations so far, unfair competition on the route among others.
Franklin Ihejirika who was at the meeting reports
How are you copping with the issue of multiple frequencies and designation to foreign airline into the country?
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 designation are given to foreign airlines, the government is addressing all that.
How is Air Peace doing on the Dubai route?
Our Dubai operations is going seamlessly, our waiting time is very short. In some cases one hour, some less than two hours. 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 counters in Dubai Airport, sometimes you trek up to two hours. By that time, somebody who landed in Sharjah has gone to his hotel and probably be sleeping. Sharjah is a small airport, so when you land there, those long formalities and long trekking is not there, you just walk to the Immigration counters and within 15minutes you are out of that airport and you are in your hotel in Dubai.
For economy passengers, we have buses that will take the passengers to Dubai, it takes just 15 minutes and we drop them at Diera. For business class and first class passengers because our planes have first class, we give you Limousine to take you to your hotel and the day you are going back, we come and pick you up from the hotel to the airport.
What is the patronage from Nigerians on the route like?
Nigerians should be patriotic and patronise their own. We don’t have the kind of money Emirates have, and that was why America pushed them out of their country. They were doing all these unfair competition in America using all manner of tactics, using state funds to run airline, which is not always allowed. Is an unfair competition, because Airlines in America got together and complained that they are the ones providing jobs for their country that these other one is using state funds to run an airline which is an unfair competition and that if care is not taken, they will go down and millions of jobs will be lost. American government stepped in immediately and cut down the 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, done it to Virgin Nigeria, done it to Med-View and now is Air Peace.
The failure of Nigerian airlines on that route is not their fault because these other airlines employ unfair competition, using state funds to compete, they can afford to slash their fares as low as 90 percent just to push you out and when they push you out, they will come back to gain all they lost all over again. Nigerians should also be patriotic and patronise their own. There is much the government can do in this circumstance. But is just for the people to understand that this is their own airline. In-terms of pricing, your own will always 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 three thousand two hundred and something (3200) Nigerians working directly with about 9000 ancillary jobs. So why can’t we support our own. So what are they providing that others can’t provide, they lure you with all sorts of things and you end up paying for it. When the country’s economy is going down, you will end up paying all these little things they are offering you. What the 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 border Nigerians.
Have you meet with some of these tour operators to rob minds?
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 flight to bring you to Lagos, put you on our air condition bus and take you to the international airport. Whether you are coming from Kano, Uyo, Enugu, wherever, once you book with us, you are our property, we land you at the local airport and put you on our air condition buses and drive you to the international airport at no cost and and as you are checking in, 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 to these unique services so far?
A lot of people are used to what they are used to, we are doing well, we are not doing badly, especially for economy class passengers. 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 don’t 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 very encouraging. We would do more in support of Nigerians.