* Gets permits to link Jeddah, Milan, Lisbon
Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The federal government has given indigenous carrier, Air Peace approval to commence direct flights between Nigeria and India.
The airline has also secured the necessary permits for direct air link between Nigeria and Milan (Italy), Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) and Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, among others.
The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the airline, Mr. Allen Onyema made the disclosures in Abuja yesterday at the India-Nigeria Business Forum, organised by the Indian High Commission in Nigeria.
Onyema regretted that despite the huge volume of business between Nigeria and India as well as the fact that the Asian country is a destination for medical tourism among scores of Nigerians, there has not been any form of direct flights for decades.
“A lot of Nigerians look up to India for their health challenges. They go round the world to be connected to India. We thank the Nigerian government for giving Air Peace the approval as a flight carrier to India,” he said.
He applauded President Muhammadu Buhari for being what he described as a ‘positive radical’ by making the possibility of direct connections between both countries possible.
Onyema disclosed that his airline was waiting for the Indian government to give a concurrent endorsement for Air Peace to commence operations soon.
He assured that just as it did on the Nigeria-Dubai route, Air Peace would crash the air fare when operations commence on the Nigeria-India corridor with two wide-body B777 aircraft.
“Within the next few months, God willing, we shall be flying to Mumbai. The business is huge between India and Nigeria but direct air connection has been lacking’,” he said, adding that his airline currently operates to India via an interconnectivity arrangement with Air Arabia.
The Air Peace chief executive lamented the exploitation of Nigerian travellers by foreign carriers, noting that where those carriers charge about N4 million for first class seat, the Nigerian airline is flying at N850,000 on the same routes, using the same equipment.
With 28 aircraft already in its fleet, Onyema disclosed that the airline is on the verge of taking delivery of 22 other brand new airplanes.
Onyema also disclosed that the process of flying on the London route is on, stressing that the federal government had also approved routes such as Houston, United States of America; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia,; Milan in Italy and Lisbon in Portugal as well as Tel Aviv in Israel .
Other routes approved for the airline are those in DR Congo and DR Brazzaville.
On safety, he described the safety standard of Air Peace as top-notch, having gotten the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) endorsement for three consecutive years, a development he described as rare in Nigeria.
According to him, in furtherance of its safety standards, Air Peace has $30 million worth of spare parts in its store.
He noted that the airline, which is the biggest in West and Central Africa has created close to 3,000 direct jobs and flown over 10 million passengers since it commenced operations about five years ago