AM EDITORIAL: Sustaining A Nigerian Airline On The Lagos-London Route

Over the years, Nigerian registered airlines that have operated flights between Lagos and London were frustrated out of the route, using deliberate constraining measures involved in international aeropolitics.

Following Air Peace’s commencement of direct flights between Lagos and Gatwick Airport in London on March 30, 2024, British Airways and some other European airlines on that route started crashing their fares because Air Peace came with a very low fare. The motive of these carriers who have a backing of their government agencies in making this move, is very clear and constitutes part of the ongoing aero politics.

Experience has shown that sustaining a Nigerian airline on the Lagos-London route is beyond just airline business. It is a game of international aeropolitics involving governments of both countries. It is therefore, expedient that the Nigerian government keeps its eyes on the ball in this game. For instance, if Air Peace fails to record at least, 80% On-Time-Departure from the Gatwick Airport, the UK authorities could use that as a reason to downscore Air Peace’s performance and seek to stop the operation. According to Air Peace Chairman, Allen Onyema, there are already efforts by UK Authorities and their agencies at that airport to ensure Air Peace fails to depart on time the way it is departing on time from the Lagos end.

First, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Trade & Investment must  collaborate with the Minister of Aviation & Aerospace Development, Barrister Festus Keyamo (SAN) to ensure that the measure of Air Peace’s entry into the Lagos-London route with lower air fares, which is already helping to strengthen the naira against the dollar, is taken to the next level.

In recent months, the naira had looked helpless in value in its contention with the dollar in the international market because most aviation transactions are made in dollars. A responsible government is expected to apply weight to this appearing tool for addressing the menace of weak currency, which in this case, is the sustenance of Air Peace’s operations on the Lagos-London route.

Minister Keyamo has already declared government’s willingness to encourage other Nigerian airlines to commence international flights, by possibly using the Air Peace approach which is commendable. However, more policies are required for deployment as efforts to reduce demand for the dollar and strengthen the naira, to the advantage of the Nigerian economy.

We believe it is time to pass into law, the piece of legislation known as Fly Nigeria Act, which provides that every government official must travel by a Nigerian airline on every international route, except where there is no Nigerian airline operating to such desired destination.

Currently, Air Peace is the only Nigerian carrier on the Lagos-London route. Sustaining Air Peace’s presence on that route would require some waivers for the airline such as tax holidays, considering the huge economic muscle required to “fight” the competing mega carriers and the UK government-backed conspiracies that the airline has to contend with.

The B777, one of the aircraft deployed by Air Peace on the route, uses 8,800 litres of fuel per hour and Air Peace generally flies for 160 hours daily, according to Onyema. It is possible for the Nigerian government to support this carrier on fuel expenses.

If Air Peace is left to end up like Arik Air, Medview and other airlines that returned home to lick their wounds from this similar battle in the past, the loss would be a Nigerian loss and the avoidable consequences on Nigerian travelers and the economy is unimaginable. Therefore, no effort from government to support and sustain Air Peace’s operations on the Lagos-London route should be considered as being too much. AM

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Albinus Chiedu

Albinus Chiedu is a journalist, aviation media consultant, events management professional, and author. He has practiced journalism since 2000.

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