Chairman/chief executive officer of Air Peace, Chief Allen Onyema has described LEADERSHIP Group Limited as a very credible newspaper, stressing that it is the credibility of the newspaper that made him embrace the LEADERSHIP Award extended to the airline. The Nigeria’s most influential newspaper had recently announced Air Peace as the ‘Company of the Year 2018’ in its LEADERSHIP Award series to be held soon.
Speaking on the upcoming award, Onyema said that Air Peace decided to accept the ‘Company of the Year Award’ because LEADERSHIP Newspaper is one of the most serious media outfits in the country. Onyema said, “it is a very credible media outfit and it gladdened my heart when we received the award letter notification. We didn’t know how it was conducted and the time it was done because we were not approached and no money exchanged hands. They did this on their own.”
The airline operator pointed out that getting an award like this from LEADERSHIP is something Air Peace will celebrate because the recognition is coming from a very credible source which means the airline is doing something right. He said Air Peace is happy being associated with this award and that it is going to motivate the carrier to do more. “It is going to be a challenge to us not to drop the ball but to continue doing what gave us this and we hope to receive it in 2018 again”, he said.
On the challenges facing airlines in the country, Onyema said that, apart from foreign airlines trying to stifle them, Nigerians are equally helping the foreigners. “We are doing international flights and don’t have a single office space at the international airport. All the foreign airlines have and more are going to get to our detriment in our own country. That is a main challenge. The other challenge is poor airport infrastructure. This is the first thing we should fix even before the so called national carrier.
“There are delays because of poor airport infrastructure which contributes 50 per cent. Nigerian airlines are operating under harsh operating environment, and the owners should be praised for going into a business that is not lucrative yet very capital intensive”, the CEO said. Another challenge according to Onyema, is lack of night flying facilities at the airport which limits their operational time.
Lamenting the situation, Onyema noted that, in other parts of the world, an aircraft flies 20 hours in a day but in Nigeria, the local airlines are constrained to fly from 7am to 4pm while the overhead is static. He also pointed to insurance as a major obstacle, stressing that the amount of money to insure one aircraft is what they use in insuring about three aircraft elsewhere because insurance companies will tell you that Nigeria is unsafe and risky and the higher the risk the higher the premium.
He informed that Nigerian airlines are expected to insure with air rated insurance companies which the country does not have; yet the law makes it compulsory for local airlines to insure abroad; but you must go through Nigerian insurance companies.
“At times some of them are not even remitting your money. The government should allow airlines to insure their aircraft directly with those foreign companies. This is so that we don’t have issues of claims. We have a claim now that has not been paid for two years when our spare part caught fire. By going through a Nigerian insurance company, we are paying double yet we wonder why airlines in Nigeria are not doing well. We borrow at 26 per cent, the foreign airlines borrow at two per cent with the funds readily available while in Nigeria you have to bring your great grandfather’s house and everything about you is mortgaged just to borrow money”, he said.
“Then we talk of the about the 37 per cent charges Nigerian airlines pay, how about procurement of spare parts. We procure spare parts on aircraft on ground (AOG) and all over the world an AOG is given priority. Spare parts for AOG all over the world are not held by customs, you take it then later you settle the duties but that part must exit the customs but in Nigeria, the customs don’t know what you are talking about and the part can stay there for two weeks and the aircraft is on ground. How about bird strike which has caused several accidents?”
According to Onyema, in Nigeria bird strike is so common that it has become part of the airlines, adding that in the last four months Air Peace has had about five bird strikes. Lamenting that there are few airports with complete navigational aids, Onyema maintained, however, that Nigerian pilots are the best under the sun despite the challenges.
“The challenges are enormous and we are weathering them. We at Air Peace knew those challenges were there before we came so we try to tailor our operations around these challenges and that is why it look as if we are succeeding. The airline operators too are part of the challenge, some people borrow out of limit. They borrow more than they need. Some over-invoice themselves, that is corruption and at the end of the day they don’t have money to run an efficient operation”, Onyema said.