Last week, Air Peace performed an inaugural flight to Johannesburg and renewed another direct connection between Nigeria and South Africa. Chinedu Eze writes that the airline provided assistance to Nigerians who wanted to return home to Yuletide
Shortly before locking in around March 2020, South Africa Airways halted its day-to-day operations towards Nigeria, thus ending a direct commercial flight between Africa’s two largest economies.
The Nigerian carrier, Arik Air, stopped flights to Johannesburg in February 2017, so after South Africa Airways stopped its direct flights, passengers wishing to travel to Nigeria or South Africa had to connect other countries.
But on Thursday, December 17, 2020, Air Peace reconnected the two countries and it was celebrated by Nigerians who longed to travel to their homeland without hassle.
Many Nigerian passengers who spoke to THEM during the Johannesburg-Lagos flight said they were happy the Nigerian airline was taking them home and recalled how Air Peace evacuated Nigerians during xenophobic attacks and also during the new coronavirus blockade.
“Since then, we have fallen in love with Air Peace. So when many of us heard that Air Peace would start an operation for South Africa, we canceled a flight with another airline (name retained) and bought an Air Peace ticket that would take us directly to Lagos. So, it is time to return to our airline under the auspices of, ”said the passenger, who simply identified himself as Desmond.
Air Peace Limited Chairman Allen Onyema, who spoke to reporters just before the flight to Johannesburg, said the airline’s management was happy to renew the direct link between Nigeria and South Africa and noted that in fulfilling the promise the airline made to Nigerians to will not only provide flight services for domestic destinations but also for international destinations.
“We promised the Nigerians six years ago, when we launched Air Peace, that we would not only connect cities in Nigeria and communities in Nigeria, but also that we would connect this country with other nations of the world and gradually get there,” he said. .
He also said that Air Peace predicted that the route would become competitive, and the only way the airline would maintain its activities on the route was to provide an efficient service, which the Nigerian carrier was supposed to do.
“Well, we don’t want to fool ourselves that we are the only ones on the route so far, some other people will want to come there as well. So to keep pace with what we do, we have to be pragmatic; we must also be strategic in our planning. And, as I said, we have been following our business plan since 2014; we started meticulously. Everything we said we would do from 2014, by the grace of Almighty God, we managed to achieve. And we believe we can do more with articulated planning, ”the chairman said, adding that the direct link between South Africa and Nigeria will improve relations and strengthen stronger economic cooperation between the two major countries on the continent.
Air Peace Chief Operating Officer (COO) Ms. Toyin Olajide said during an introductory dinner in Johannesburg that flights between Nigeria and South Africa will strengthen economic co-operation between the West African state and the country of Mandela.
“For me and indeed for the entire airline management, this flight is more than just the start of a regular flight to Johannesburg; it is the strengthening of the economy and commercial ties between these two giant African states – Nigeria and South Africa. It is an example and a reflection of a mutually beneficial relationship. It is the implementation of our bilateral air agreement and the encouragement of the progress of Nigeria and South Africa, and the promotion of unity between the citizens of South Africa and Nigeria.
“I remind you that we flew into this country on September 11, 2019 and evacuated 503 Nigerians in two separate flights. Although the circumstances were somewhat favorable, the incident increased the airline’s desire to launch a planned flight to the country.
“Even today, we are celebrating the realization of that ambition. Also, on June 26, 2020, during the locking of COVID-19 in Nigeria, we flew to South Africa to evacuate 167 Nigerians.
“In this situation, you will very correctly say that we are familiar with the South African terrain. We see it as an opportunity to directly connect both countries and we have used it. We are pleased that this is happening and we believe that both countries will benefit greatly from the areas of job creation, tourism promotion and the smooth transport of people, which is a prerequisite for economic development and other forms of value that will be created together, “she said. .
Speaking to local media in Johannesburg, Ms. Olajide acknowledged that COVID-19 had devastated the aviation industry, but noted that due to resilience and determination, airlines like Air Peace are able to sustain their business.
“So, it’s understandable when people ask, how come you can start a flight and be stable?” I mean, this is one question I’ve been asked a few times, people are just wondering why we can make a standard flight.
“And I tell them we have a vision to connect African countries. We strive to provide seamless connectivity across African cities. And to be able to start during this season, it wasn’t something we just woke up with and then decided to do it.
“As I told you earlier, we wanted to start this flight as we did two years ago, but the plans actually existed, we set all the necessary resources, all the parameters to ensure that the equipment, our Boeing 777 aircraft was ready, to provide a backup , to have the right staff and the right resources. And when we achieved that, we knew we were ready.
“Many Nigerians in both Nigeria and overseas, especially South Africa, are longing for Air Peace to launch this operation. We know we have the capabilities, we know we have the resources and we are able to do it.
“And then we looked at the house, checked our business plan, looked at all our parameters and saw that it was the right time to go. And that is why we are here today, “Olajide said.
She said Air Peace’s priority is efficiency and customer service, noting that the airline is satisfied when the needs of its customers are met.
“And now Air Air is one thing that sets us apart from the superior services we provide to our customers.
“So, we provide the same service to all customers, because they have a reason why they protect us, we understand so much. And we know we have to listen to them, they are very important to us.
“Therefore, we are not joking with the services we provide to our customers. With Air Peace on this South African route, the first thing you’ll even benefit from now on is safety and of course, because this period is a very sensitive period; the airline shall ensure that, in accordance with COVID-19 procedures, the cockpit crew and cabin crew are all in compliance; understood the procedures regarding this COVID-19.
“And before you can board our plane at all, you must have a negative COVID-19 result from an approved laboratory,” the CEO said.
Olajide said that even in the high season of the Juletide period, Air Peace still introduced a promotional price, sells tickets at very reasonable prices and operates a very beautiful Boeing 777 aircraft.
“When we were coming from Lagos to Johannesburg, I had passengers on the passenger, one of them came to me, a white man, and he told me, ma’am, you don’t know what you did for us,” she said.
Also, speaking during the introductory dinner, the Minister of Consulate of Nigeria, Mr. Ezenwa Nwobiala, who represented the Consulate General of Nigeria, said that Nigerians and the Consulate are satisfied that Air Peace is operating in Johannesburg.
“We are so proud of today that we are launching our best airline for South Africa. We see this as an opportunity to deepen that strong link between Nigeria and South Africa. As you all know, Nigeria and South Africa are two forces of the African continent.
Wherever the two of us agree, a lot of things end well and we hope that the entry of air peace on the South African route will provide opportunities for our two countries. And I want to say that this airline – Air Peace is tested and proven.
“Since 2019, when this airline started an emergency operation on the South Africa route, it has been successful. We as a nation were so proud of the airline and overjoyed because so many people were waiting for this day. I want to congratulate the airline, the airline management for making this possible.
“Actually, a lot of Nigerians were waiting today, they asked us this question, will it work?” And we said let’s see, that it will be, because what they did during the evacuation flights gives a lot of confidence to this airline. And I want to thank them once again for everything they have done and I pray that this will be the best of all entrances to the South African route, ”he said.
Air Peace Director Mohammed Danjuma said the introduction of flights to Johannesburg is a growth trajectory that is in tandem with the airline’s long-term plans to connect Nigeria with the rest of the world.
“Air Peace’s flight to South Africa is a growth path in line with the airline’s expansion plan. Sure for COVID-19, which has stopped everything globally, I think we would be celebrating a lot more destinations by now, not just South Africa, which we just launched today. But either way, the airline is not deterred, we hope and watch despite all the challenges we face globally. We hope to continue to grow the airline, discovering more destinations and reaching new continents, taking Nigerians and others.
“South Africa is home not only to Air Peace, but also to Nigerians. As you know, there is a very large Nigerian community here and they enjoy a lot of bilateral relations. So I think this is a big milestone not only for the airline, but for the two countries as well. “Because this is another opening that has opened and which will further strengthen our relationship and strengthen trade between the two countries, and not just two, but between West Africa and South Africa,” Danjuma said.
The sky looks brighter for the Nigerian carrier, which enhances the image of Africa’s most populous state.