By Chinedu Eze
It was fanfare on Monday when Ibom Air made its inaugural flight to the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu two weeks after it was reopened for operations.
The airline, which holds so much promise, was welcomed by the Enugu state government, as the Deputy Governor of the state, Cecelia Ezeilo thanked officials of Ibom Air for choosing to fly to the regional capital of the South-East.
Officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other airport workers could not hold back their excitement when the Ibom Air flight landed at 9:07 am that Monday, and was graced by water canon, which ushered it into the tarmac.
Ezeilo, conveyed the Governor’s message to Ibom Air and said that the government and the people of the state and the whole South East warmly welcomed the airline to the Coal City.
She described the airline as partner, saying, “We are very happy and excited to welcome Ibom Air to Enugu State on its inaugural flight. We are partners in progress and we wish you success as you expand.”
The Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the airline, George Uriesi explained that in the reasoned and well-planned routes expansion programme of Ibom Air, Enugu was considered strategic because it is growing into regional hub, connecting many states around it; noting that the flight into the Akanu Ibiam International Airport was planned to serve not just the state but adjoining states as well.
“We have moved from the federal capital, Abuja, to the commercial capital, Lagos to the Capital of Akwa Ibom, Uyo then we got into Calabar to get that part of the country and now we are in the South East.
“Enugu is the gateway to the South-east and there are many states that use this airport, which include Ebonyi, Anambra; some people in parts of Benue State come here to fly, up to Ogoja in Cross Rivers State, so the clientele for this airport is huge.
“We are very happy to be here and we come with our unique selling point; schedule reliability, on time performance and excellent service. That’s what we are about and we hope that as we provide that combination of three things to our customers they would reward us with their patronage,” Uriesi said.
He also explained that the advantage the airline has is that it is using the right aircraft for its operations, noting that the capacity of the aircraft dovetails with envisaged passenger traffic at every point.
“The reason for this aircraft choice is that we don’t have to carry 100 passengers in order to make good business. Our break-even point is lower than many of our competitors and as long as we have certain number of passengers per flight, we are comfortable, and certainly the market provides the number of passengers per flights and as long as we have those passengers or more, we continue to be profitable.
“What’s important is that when you have the right equipment, if someone carries 60 passengers and it doesn’t work for him, we can carry 60 passengers and it will work for us.
“We burn far less fuel than those who fly the bigger aeroplanes, we have more reliability because the aircraft are relatively new and very well maintained. So far, it’s been good,” he said.
Welcoming Ibom Air to Enugu, the airport Manager, Mrs. Oguama Cecelia, said that facilities at the airport are being upgraded to meet the growing passenger traffic and expressed happiness that the fast rising carrier, Ibom Air has chosen to operate to Enugu.
She gave timeline on the works going on at the airport to make it fully functional and prepare the facility for the huge passenger traffic that it would service in the coming Christmas season.
“Work is going on at different areas of the airport. Airfield lighting is 95 per cent completed, the project will become operational before the end of September.
“We can take in night landing now. There are quite a lot of jobs that are being done at the airport. We are doing the toilets, we are doing the fencing, we are doing the perimeter road, we are doing the toll gate, we are doing the drainages, the terminal, you can see we are changing the lighting, the roofing, we are doing all that.
“We are also building a fantastic clinic. We have emergency operations centre, which we have completed and we are doing an administration block too. So quite a lot is coming for Enugu airport,” she said.