How Foreign Carriers operating the Nigeria-UK route Plan to Crumble Air Peace

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The Chairman of Nigerian indigenous carrier Air Peace, Allen Onyema recently expressed concern over alleged conspiracy among foreign carriers operating the Nigeria-UK route.

He claimed that these carriers are deliberately undercutting airfares on the route as part of a scheme to push Air Peace out of international operations. In a Television interview monitored by this magazine, Onyema noted that “there is an unspoken alliance among foreign airlines to use lower pricing to eject Air Peace from the Nigeria-London route.

Furthermore, a visibly displeased Onyema stated “if they take out Air Peace prematurely, this country will pay dearly for it, 10 times over, billions will be lost, there will be another heavy strain on the naira” .

It would be recalled that on March 30, 2024, Air Peace reciprocated the lopsided Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) between Nigeria and the United Kingdom when the local airline began direct flight operations from Lagos to Gatwick Airport in London.

The Minister of Aviation, Festus Keyamo; and his counterpart at the Trade and Investment Ministry, Doris Uzoka-Anita; were onboard the inaugural Lagos-London flight alongside businessmen and women.

This development has been applauded by many industry observers who spoke to this magazine with more local airlines being encouraged to commence international flights to profitable routes.

Industry watchers say the price of international flight ticket on the Lagos-London route was as high as N3.5m but with Air Peace pegging a return economy class ticket for N1.2m, foreign airlines such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Qatar Airways have been forced to slash their prices to stay competitive.

But theAir peace boss said foreign airlines operating the route “are fighting back”. “We are being deliberately frustrated in all ways,” he said, citing ground handling and space allocation difficulties at Gatwick Airport in the last couple of days. ” lt’s a very devilish conspiracy,” a dissatisfied Allen Onyema stated.

“All of a sudden, (foreign) airlines are under pricing, below the cost, it’s not up to one month, an airline was advertising $100, another one $305, $350. Fill up the entire aircraft and carry people on the wings, it’s not even enough to buy your fuel. So, why are they doing that? Their governments are supporting them because Nigeria has been a cash cow for everybody”. Also, “Their governments are supporting them to do this and take Air Peace out. The idea is to take Air Peace out and the moment they succeed in taking Air Peace out, Nigerians will pay 20 times over again,” he added.

Meanwhile, the airline boss invite other Nigerian airlines to join the Nigeria-UK route to break the monopoly hitherto enjoyed by foreign carriers operating into the four major gateway airports of Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt. According to Onyema,

“I invite other Nigerian airlines to join the fray, let them come, let all of us do international operations. Yes, international aeropolitics is very dirty but somebody must pay the price,” he said.

Onyema expressed appreciation to President Bola Tinubu and Minister Keyamo for being “solidly behind” Air Peace even as the airline navigates the politics side of operating to London.

How the federal government would support a Nigerian airlines that is set to break the monopoly of the foreign airlines operating the UK- Nigeria route remains to be seen.

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