The Federal Government has said it will support domestic carriers more to enable them to meet the demands of Nigeria’s Bilateral Air Services Agreement with other countries.
Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed Rimi, said the government would provide diplomatic and political support for the airlines.
Speaking during Air Peace’s inaugural flight to Dubai via Sharjah, Rimi said the airline had been recognised as Nigeria’s flag carrier on the Lagos-Dubai air route.
“Air Peace is now recognised as a national carrier, based on UAE’s BASA with Nigeria. The only thing government can do is to provide diplomatic and political support, I call on Nigerians to also support this airline,” he said.
The Airline Operators of Nigeria had earlier asked the Federal Government to get more involved in international aero-politics in order to protect domestic carriers in the country.
The AON Chairman, Capt. Nogie Meggison, said without the full involvement and support of the government, indigenous Nigerian carriers would not be as competitive as their regional and international counterparts.
“The government needs to join in the politics because we need support, from our ambassadors and every relevant government agency, we need to play this politics with our whole body,” he said.
Meggison said the Federal Government had been supportive but a lot more needed to be done, adding that Air Peace should be given support as Nigeria’s flag carrier.
“The government has been supportive so far; we all want a flag carrier and Air Peace has also come this far but aero-politics will come in, which is where we need the government,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Mr Sabiu Zakari, had also stated that the government would continue to support domestic airlines especially with special tax windows.
“We have been supporting them but the next level is to assist them with operations into other countries,” Zakari, who was represented by an official of the ministry, Hassan Musa, said.
The Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema, said Nigerians had been made to pay more than other passengers from African countries on international routes due to the hitherto non-existence of a formidable carrier from the country.
According to him, Nigerians pay more to the UK on a six-hour flight than passengers from Southern African countries travelling for nine hours or more to the same destination.
“This is the time to stop the short-changing of Nigerians on international routes, I don’t have doubts that Air Peace will sustain this route and more to come,” he said.
According to Onyema, the airline is planning to increase its B777 aircraft being deployed for long-haul flights to six before the end of the year to accommodate more routes.
He said flights from Lagos to Johannesburg would commence before the end of August while Guangzhou, Mumbai, London and Houston routes were also being planned and would follow in that order.