BEVERLY HILLS, April 15, (THEWILL) – Newest entrant into Nigeria’s aviation industry, United Nigeria Airlines, has recorded about 25,000 passengers within four weeks of commencing operations on the local routes.
The management revealed the figure Wednesday during a courtesy visit to the League of Airport and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja.
According to the airline, within eight weeks of operation, it flew 25,000 passengers with an average of about 3,200 passengers weely.
Speaking at the media briefing, Chairman of the airline, High Chief Obiora Okonkwo, said the airline was just about eight weeks old, stressing that it was the first baby of the current management of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) headed by Capt Musa Nuhu.
Relaying his experiences in the process of acquiring the Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC), Okonkwo commended the agency, stating that, “Within this period, NCAA has been very diligent in the processing of AOCs. We are happy and grateful to God that we were able to scale through this their very very strict and stringent processes. Today we are flying.”
According to him, the airline’s medium term plan was to consolidate on local flights and later actualise the big dream of doing regional flights.
In terms of giving employment to Nigerians, he added that, “Opportunities are already being created as 60 percent of our employees are having their first experience in aviation. They go for training and they are benefiting. More people are in the pipeline as we open up more routes.
“We have started with the Embraer aircraft. It is convenient for us because we need to build our routes and passengers. As soon that is done and we are comfortable with it, we obviously go to our Phase Two. We are hoping we should increase the air fleet very soon. We are looking at the next couple of two, three months. A lot of plans are already on the way. We have been happy so far and the responses we are getting from the market are positive.”
On why air fare seemed to be on the high side, Okonkwo pointed out that the cost of flight operations in the industry made no amount too much for a ticket.
On the cost of Aviation fuel which is on the increase, the airline operator said, “It is a great thing of concern. We started operation at N160. The cost component of aviation fuel is 30 to 40%. When you move from N160 to N270 within a space of two months, one ordinarily would expect that the minimum ticket sales almost increase with 50% especially when the cost component is 30 to 40%. It is a great thing of concern. Surely for the industry to remain viable, certain cost components must have to be adjusted and the only way you take is through ticketing or cargo or courier.”
He equally cited foreign exchange, cumbersome waivers’ process, high cost of aviation fuel as some of the major challenges.
Okonkwo also hinted that the airline had started the process of establishing an MRO facility in its base in Enugu and engaging in talks with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to finalise on the actual space for location.
Also speaking at the briefing, Chief Operating Officer of the airline, Mazi Osita Okonkwo, said that the new airline was strategic and ready to learn the ropes of efficient airline business and service the people appropriately.
Emphasising that the airline was solidly built on the unity of the country, Osita said, “Our motto is flying to unite which is both micro and macro. It is micro in the sense that once you come to us, we have a promise that we take you to your destination; and we move from there to unite different citizens and cultures in Nigeria. The unity we are talking about is an experience that we want everybody that flies with us to experience and enjoy.”