By Chinedu Eze
Nigeria’s major airline, Air Peace, has explained that it is yet to embark on its international long-haul operations because it has not secured approvals for flight service from the countries of its planned destinations.
The federal government had designated Air Peace to fly to London, Guangzhou-China, Houston, US, Mumbai, India, Johannesburg, South Africa, Dubai and Sharjahin, the United Arab Emirates, but these countries are yet to give approval for the Nigerian carrier to serve these routes.
The airline attributed this to aero politics in which countries try to protect their own airlines against competition from outsiders, adding that to overcome this obstacle, governments usually go along with the designated airlines to push and break these barriers in the spirit of diplomatic reciprocity.
Air Peace Chief Operating Officer, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Olajide, who made this known yesterday, said the authorities of most of the international destinations the carrier had been designated to operate to 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.
The airline was reacting to the remarks made by the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika at the 5th Stakeholders Forum last Thursday in Abuja where he acknowledged that his office had designated the airline to the aforementioned destinations but the Nigerian carrier has not started operating to them.
Olajide explained that even the countries that have approved the airline to operate to their domain imposed impossible charges in order to discourage the airline.
She decried the high charges imposed on Nigerian airlines by other countries and remarked that in the principle of reciprocity, Nigeria ought to respond to them by also charging the airlines from these countries exorbitant charges as a response to their ill treatment of a Nigerian airline.
Olajide dismissed claims that domestic airlines lacked the capacity to take advantage of the Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASA) Nigeria signed with different countries.
She said Air Peace has demonstrated its capacity to operate to the designated destinations, remarking that the carrier at the moment has been consistent in its operation 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 country’s economy in many other areas.
She also described the inability of airlines to operate into 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.