Perennial aviation fuel scarcity and its skyrocketing cost since 2016 hampered operations of Nigerian airlines in the West and Central Africa.
With the dollars scarcity in Nigeria, which forced down the value of Naira, West Coast operations gave Nigerian airlines the leeway to earn foreign exchange.
Early in 2016, Aero Contractors, Arik, Medview Airline and African World Airlines (AWA) from Ghana served the Accra-Lagos route effectively until Dana Air joined the fray. Dana brought a counterpoise to the market, which began to dwindle in load factor and became over saturated.
Arik operated far afield beyond Accra to Abidjan, Bamako, Angola, Dakar, Freetown and Monrovia. Arik was followed by Medview, which launched inaugural flight to Freetown and Monrovia late December last year.
But suddenly, Dana stopped the Lagos –Accra flight, citing high cost of charges (in dollars), Arik’s epileptic flight schedule and cancellations forced passengers to shun the airline and Aero on September 1, 2016 stopped all schedule operations, including West Coast service.
AWA, which hitherto operated Lagos-Accra flight three times weekly started daily flight with its Embraer E145 aircraft and at a time was operating four times to Lagos from Accra.
West and Central African destinations are huge market and include Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Mali, Cote d’ Ivoire, Senegal, The Gambia and others. This market is only served by Asky with other upstart airlines that do not have durability. Ironically majority of the passengers in these destinations are Nigerians.
Last week, Air Peace made the first incursion outside Nigerian domestic market with its inaugural flight to Accra from Lagos. The airline within two years of its operation has warmed itself to the hearts of travellers who now demand that it should take them farther than domestic destinations.
The airline’s service to Accra is a harbinger to other destinations in the West Coast and Central Africa. So Medview and Air Peace have become two Nigerian airlines that will provide hundreds of Nigerian businessmen and women and others the needed service to move around the West and Central Africa.
During the inaugural flight to Accra, last week, the Chief Operating Officer of Air Peace, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Olajide said the airline would help travellers to make seamless connections across Africa, as it plans to add more destinations in the continent.
“In just about 28 months of operation, your darling airline has experienced tremendous growth. We have not only given air travellers a refreshingly new choice, but have continued to distinguish ourselves with our excellent on-time departure record and high safety and maintenance standards.
“The launch of our Lagos-Accra-Lagos route opens a new chapter in our spectacular flight operations. We are quite hopeful that our great experience here will guide our plan to expand into other regional and international routes in the days and months ahead,” Olajide said.
She said: “Air Peace considered it a great privilege “to be given the opportunity to provide seamless air travel between Ghana and Nigeria and help individuals and businesses connect their destinations with ease.
“We promise not to lower the high standards we have been known for since we started operations. We are in Ghana to offer nothing but the best air travel experience and treat our customers with the greatest respect. We will continue to deepen the quality of our team in the days ahead. We will continue to honour our promise to place a non-negotiable premium on the comfort and safety of our valued customers,” the Chief Operating Officer said.
The acting Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana,Adekunbi Sonaike-Ayodeji who welcomed the new airline to Ghana said the coming of Air Peace to Ghana would boost economic and trade relations between Nigeria and Ghana.
“This is another feather to Nigeria’s existence and collaboration with Ghana. Air Peace coming in also confirms that things at home are working. For you to take a step to come to Ghana means a success story has already been recorded at home.”
She noted that besides the fact that the Yamoussoukro Declaration, which would be adopted by African nation by the end of this year, signals open sky for Africa, which means airlines in continent would not have any restrictions flying from one country to another, but there is still Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) between Nigeria and Ghana.
“If there is anything Foreign Affairs has always been doing is to promote bilateral relations. This is one of them because we have what we call bilateral air services agreement. It is on the basis of this that Air Peace is allowed to fly just like Arik, just like Med-View. So for us to have Air Peace here, it is an achievement that can be shared between Nigeria and Ghana.
“Whatever it is that is the protocol, there is also the rudiments. The protocols might say you are free to come in but there are nitty-gritty that are required for you to have a bilateral.
The rudiment of it is still going to be one to one and one to one is where civil aviation will define what are the limitations, what is expected of airlines,” she said.
Sonaike-Ayodeji noted that the trade relations between Nigeria and Ghana have increased greatly but part of it is still informal, so it is not well recorded because so many businesses exist as a result of just moving in from Ghana to Nigeria or Nigeria to Ghana.
“Air Peace will also be recorded henceforth now as a trade relation between Nigeria and Ghana. All these are adding up and I can tell you that Nigeria is more or less enjoying the opening of ECOWAS protocols at the same time we are also encouraging Ghanaians to go to Nigeria because if we put our population together, we are talking of about over 200 million people,” she said.
Nigeria has at least 60 percent of the passenger traffic on the West Coast, so it becomes pertinent that Nigerian airiness should play major role in airlifting these passengers from one destination to another. Air Peace has positioned itself to play that significant role.