United Nigeria Airlines’ Route Expansion Ongoing, Gradual, Says Awute
- LINUS AWUTE, Director of Administration, United Nigeria Airlines, in this interview speaks on status of the airline’s route expansion programme
Q: IN YOUR ROUTE EXPANSION PLANS WITHIN NIGERIA, THERE ARE INDICATIONS THAT UNITED NIGERIA AIRLINES IS TARGETING PLACES LIKE SOKOTO, KANO, BENIN, AND SO ON. WHAT IS DRIVING YOUR PLANS?
A: Our route expansion is an indication of our growth system, which is tied to the overall goal and vision of the government. We know that by the name, United Nigeria, we have the task of running sustainable operation that every Nigerian will be proud of. When we started with a few routes; nine precisely, a lot of people asked; why are you limited to nine routes? The answer has been that we have just started. For us to succeed, we need to do things step by step. So, we are two years and some months in the sector. We are proud that we are now talking about route expansion within. The whole idea of route expansion within is to gain the right momentum for the next level of operation which has to do with regional and international routes. These are the ambitious programmes that we have made, believing strongly that we can do it. We actually do not want to make too much noise about that because there are processes that we are undertaking that are coming to fruition. First, you don’t just wake up to say that you want to go regional. You have to qualify for that. We also applied for that. We have been found qualified and all the approvals given but that also has to do with the country you are designated to. They must also know that you are designated to their country, the government of that country, represented by the civil aviation authority and other agencies just as we have, have to do something. There will be interface of a kind, which we have to do. Letter writing has to take place. The approving authority has to notify those countries that we have been given the legitimacy to operate to that country. It is their own duty to examine us to know that we are approved. That is the process that we are into and we have no obstacles. Most of these countries have been responding, preparing to come. Some of them have also started to come to interface and examine our operational plans and conditions. We mean everything that we are doing. If you heard about expansion within, yes, that is taking place already.
Q: FOR THIS EXPANSION WITHIN, DO YOU HAVE A KICK-OFF DATE FOR SOKOTO, KANO AND BENIN FLIGHTS?
A: Yes. The scheduled date has been fixed. We are even ready to fly tomorrow but it requires the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to come to see the facilities that we have put in place in those locations. When I say we are even ready to fly tomorrow, it means everything required to be done by us to show our preparedness to undertake active flight operation to route destinations has been done.
Q: IS IT TRUE THAT KADUNA STATE GOVERNMENT IS INTERESTED IN HAVING YOU FLY TO THAT STATE?
A: Many states are interested, expecting us as United Nigeria Airlines to consider their states as possible for operation. Yes. We are happy with that but we also know that these things will be taken step by step.
Q: AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS YEAR, YOUR AIRLINE HAD SOME TARGETS SET FOR ACHIEVEMENT DURING THE YEAR IN TERMS OF PASSENGER TRAFFIC AND SO ON. THIS IS NOVEMBER. WHAT WERE THOSE TARGETS AND WOULD YOU SAY THEY HAVE BEEN MET?
A: To the best of my knowledge, we are a customer friendly operator and we just have no problem. Once the flights are scheduled, we are sure of where we are going and the number of customers that will subscribe to our patronage. The December period of course, is a good season for any form of transport, land or air. We will be happy if we are able to commence operation before that time. We will be able to take advantage of that number.
Q: DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL OFFERS FOR THIS YEAR’S CHRISTMAS SEASON?
A: Yes. We have always had different offers for our customers-the passengers. A plan is in place to showcase our plans for customers for this year, not different from what we have been doing.
Q: WHAT WOULD YOU SAY HAS BEEN YOUR BENEFIT FROM PARTICIPATING IN THIS YD WEEK?
A: From this conference, we have benefited as participants who have influence in the future of the aviation industry in Nigeria. We have occasion where the existing obstacles to free movement within the sub region is eliminated. We are a party to all those who are subscribing to one Africa with prosperity. Anything hindering that is what we need to identify and remove. That is why the political will after here will be highly demanded. AM