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Air Peace and Other Nigerian Airlines Plan US Routes

Nigerian airlines, including Air Peace, are gearing up to launch flights to the United States soon. This development comes as the Federal Government grants permissions and ramps up efforts to support local operators in expanding their international reach.

Recently, the Minister of Aviation, Festus Keyamo, vowed to further reduce international flight prices. He also outlined measures taken to ensure local operators gain full control of international routes soon. He stated that his ministry, through the Renewed Hope Agenda of the President Bola Tinubu administration, is determined to break barriers and create a conducive environment for both local and international airlines to thrive.

A representative of the Airline Operators of Nigeria confirmed anonymously to our correspondent that Air Peace has recently been granted the right to fly to the US, adding that other airlines are also being considered. “The airline the government gave the right to fly to the US routes is Air Peace. There are other airlines but Air Peace has just been recently offered that,” the representative said.

However, aviation analyst and member of the aviation round table, Olumide Ohunayo, expressed scepticism about the readiness of Nigerian airlines to fly US routes. “Sincerely, we are not ready. I have not seen any of the airlines in Nigeria being capable of starting the US routes,” he said. He also cited historical challenges and potential bilateral issues, warning, “If our airlines must go, our aircraft must be owned by us. I don’t think we are ready.”

In contrast, the Chief Operating Officer of United Nigeria Airlines, Osita Okonkwo, asserted that his airline is prepared, pointing out that securing slots and permits from US authorities is the main hurdle. “We are ready, the fleet is not the issue. The issue is the counterparty’s process of getting slots. You can have the fleet and they can delay giving you slots. We are designated to go to the US routes but we have to get slots first. So we are doing the process. Slot and permit are major issues. It is a process to go through the Federal Aviation Administration of America. We have to get all those, and then we move to the next stage of going to the airport to get slots. Fleet is not the problem because many people will want to give you aircraft to do it.”

Meanwhile, Chief Operating Officer of Ibom Air, George Uriesi, stated that his airline has no plans to operate outside Africa. “Africa is where we are interested in. Those whose plan is to go outside Africa, that is for them and not for us,” he said.

The Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, Obiora Okonkwo, indicated ongoing efforts to meet the requirements. “We are working on it from our own side. As soon as the process that is required is over, we will be ready,” he said, underscoring a commitment to achieving compliance.

The Special Assistant on Media and Communications to Keyamo, Tunde Moshood, told The PUNCH that the government is willing to allocate more international routes to local operators. “There are several BASA routes to be fixed for our local operators the moment they show capacity and consistency. It’s for the local operators to show readiness and capacity, fixing them for any of the BASA routes is what the Minister has promised.”

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