In this interview, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Mr.
Allen Onyema bares his mind on some issues in the aviation sub-sector, and negative attitude towards the local carriers, among others.
He spoke to IME AKPAN.
Non-deployment of Boeing B777 months after taking delivery There is no issue at all.
A lot of people are saying ‘Nigerian airlines are not doing well.
They cannot compete at the local end; at the international scene they disappoint passengers and disgrace the country’.
Now, we have an airline that wants to get it right.
It is true that our aircraft came in February and up till now, it has not started.
We do not want to do international operations with one aircraft.
We may have problems if we do something like that.
We want to be solid both at the local scene and at the international front.
We want to make sure Nigerians are proud of their own.
We want to make the international community not to have anything to hold on to, to fault us.
So, we want to make sure that we put in place a solid structure for the upcoming international operations.
These are the reasons why we have not started.
We do not want to go in there (international operations) and come out.
We want to make sure we have enough planes to do the international operations.
You do not begin international operations with one aircraft.
If the aircraft develop fault, what do you do? You disappoint passengers? You don’t start international operations with even two, which is why we have acquired four B777.
We have not started because the others have not come in.
And we do not want to rush it.
This country should be proud of Air Peace; enough of the de-marketing of Nigerian airlines.
Air Peace has done something even the outside world have been full of commendation for this airline.
I will tell you, all the major manufacturers of aircraft, seek to do business with Air Peace.
There is no major vendor in the world-may be for spares or for engines, which do not seek to do business with Air Peace.
There is no main aircraft dealer that does not seek to do business with Air Peace, because they have to do their know your customer (KYC); and they have seen that this company is built on solid integrity.
So, it pains me when people in government are always saying “all Nigerian airlines are heavily indebted, are weak, and cannot do anything.” It pains me and that should stop.
We should stop de-marketing our own, because of certain reasons.
Air Peace is not stopping anybody from doing anything.
We should stop generalising.
You could say some of the airlines, but do not say all the airlines.
I take exception to that.
So, we have not started international operations because we want to prove to the world that airline that is coming from Nigeria is ready to compete globally, for the right reasons.
This is why we have not started.
We are going to start this year.
By then all our B777 wide body aircraft must have come into the country.
Then, we will start on a solid note.
Dust raised by passenger traffic statistics published by NCAA First of all, I do not agree with all that was released.
I saw some airlines that I believe did not do what they said they did.
I cannot see some of those airlines doing more than Arik did.
That is my own take.
I do not want to comment on other issues there but I cannot see any airline beside Air Peace having done more than Arik.
So, if they said Air Peace is number one, the next one should have been Arik.
There is no way you can optimally use your planes in Nigeria.
The airport infrastructure does not support that.
And that is why we are saying, the first thing we should do in this country is to improve on our airport infrastructures.
The infrastructure is poor.
There is no way airlines will optimally use their equipment.
Air Peace has never, because many of the airports in Nigeria close shop at 6pm.
So when they close shop at 6pm, where will you go to? Besides Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Port Harcourt; the rest close shop at 6pm.
And these are parts of the causes of failure of airlines in Nigeria.
It is a capital intensive business.
Every penny counts.
We must get our airport infrastructure right.
It is not about saying Nigerian airlines are weak.
I hate it, especially when it comes from government official-I do not find it funny.
We should promote our own.
Bring the legacy airlines of this world to come and do domestic operations in Nigeria, they will pack up in 72 hours.
We know what we go through.
Partnership with airlines Even within Nigeria, I have been trying to promote a kind of cooperation with airlines.
Each time I try, I hit the brick wall.
I have told some of my colleagues that the sky is big enough to accommodate everybody.
People should not be looking at Air Peace with envy; they should look at what I am bringing to the table for everybody.
We should cooperate more.
We can even do spares pooling.
It will help airlines.
A lot of distrust.
You have a lot of people you cannot trust in the system; that is the truth.
You have a lot people who do not want to hear the truth.
You have a lot of people who do not even want to advise government properly within our ranks as airline operators.
And we should never blame government if they take any wrong decision at any time because there are some of us within our ranks (Airline Operators of Nigeria) (AON) who do not want to speak the truth that will help both government and the flying public.
Coming to the issue of IATA, Air Peace is part of the things that has not made us to hit the ground running with our international operations.
We do not want to go out there alone.
We are seeking partnership with other foreign airlines.
We do not want to do point to point.
We want to be a one-stop shop airline for passengers.
For example, if you are going to Europe, we are able to drop you in London you should be able to take another of our partners immediately.
Assuming you are going to Amsterdam and you use Air Peace to London, there should be another airline that will take our passengers from there to Amsterdam.
If you are going to Malaysia, we drop you in Dubai, another airline should be able to take you from Dubai to Malaysia and collecting your luggage in Malaysia.
These are the things we want to do.
We have got some partnership and we have started integration but I am not going to name them.
We have started integration with some foreign carriers-their IT and ours are doing the integration.
At the right time, Nigerians are going to enjoy a world class carrier coming out of Nigeria in Air Peace.
Phobia for Nigerian carriers Nigerians get more comfortable when they are flying international airlines.
They believe those ones maintain their aircraft better, because of the not-toogood incidents of the past.
A lot of people are sceptical about using any of the domestic carriers.
Some will prefer to travel by road, 10 hours and even be at the mercy of kidnappers.
They do not care, because they do not trust Nigerian airlines.
Again Nigerian flying public believes that Nigerian airlines are illequipped and ill-maintained.
Even those that agree to fly some of them would start praying four days before their flight.
It is a matter of perception.
Nigerian airlines are well-maintained because the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is on top of their game when it comes to the issue of maintenance.
The NCAA is even over-doing it.
So, some of the things they could take for granted abroad, we do not here.
I speak for myself as Air Peace.