By Solomon Asowata
Air Peace has commenced flights operations in Freetown , Sierra Leone ; Banjul, The Gambia; and Dakar in Senegal and will expand to five more countries in a few weeks.
The inaugural flights to the three African countries took place on Monday.
The Chairman of the airline, Mr Allen Onyema, noted in Banjul that seamless air connectivity was pivotal to the socio-economic development of countries within the Economic Community For West African States (ECOWAS) sub-region.
He said the airline was committed to unlocking the economies of Africa, offering air travellers on business and leisure trips seamless connectivity, as well as creating jobs for the people.
“The launch of our Freetown, Banjul and Dakar services today brings our regional network to four routes and a total of 16 domestic and West Coast destinations with more than 80 daily flights.
“In the next few weeks, we hope to add five more services to expand our regional route network to a total of nine destinations.
“This broad route network ,we believe, will form a solid base to link African nations and connect the continent to the rest of the world by air,” Onyema, who was represented by the airline’s Corporate Communications Manager, Mr Chris Iwarah, said.
According to him, the airline is resolute in its determination to end the challenges of air travel on the West Coast of Africa and will soon begin flight operations to many international destinations.
He said the destinations include Dubai, Guangzhou-China, London, Houston, Mumbai and South Africa, stressing that Air Peace had expanded its fleet size to 24 aircraft towards actualising this feat.
Receiving the Air Peace delegation at the Freetown International Airport, Lungi, Mr Balogun Koroma, the Minister of Transportation, Sierra Leone, commended the airline for extending operations to the country.
“We are looking for in-flight quality service, on-time service and adherence to our local content laws in terms of employing our people; and Air Peace has given us the assurance that they would adhere to that,” Koroma said.
At the Banjul International Airport, Mr Abdoulie Colley, Director of Operations, Gambian Airport Authority, assured Air Peace of the needed support to ensure hitch free operations in the country.
Similarly, Prof. Oluwasegun Ibidapo-Ope, Nigerian Ambassador to the Gambia, said the coming of Air Peace would strengthen bilateral relations between both countries.
The ambassador noted that the country had a lot of potential that was waiting to be tapped by Nigerians, and expressed optimism that the connectivity being provided by Air Peace would help in improving the situation.
In Dakar, Mr Xavier Mary, who spoke on behalf of the operators of Aeroport International Blaise Diagne , said it was a good opportunity for improving businesses between Nigeria and Senegal.
Also, Mr Lot Egopija, Minister in the Embassy of Nigeria, Dakar, said one of the main agenda of ECOWAS was to bridge the gap among its member states.
Egopija said: “Air Peace coming into Dakar is to create access to the people of both countries and also to further the ECOWAS agreement.
“Nigeria has Bi-lateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs) with many nations, and having a population of 180 million people, it is a good way of ensuring Nigerians have access to these people and also their businesses.
“Many people have preconceived notions about Nigeria, and I hope that Air Peace will be able to allay their fears by connecting them to the country to see our vast potentialities.”
The Nigerian carrier had in January promised to launch flights to the three countries in February.
The airline, in a statement signed by its Communications Manager, Mr Chris Iwarah, in Lagos, said the new routes constitute the second phase of the expansion of its network on the West Coast of Africa.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the airline had earlier fixed Dec. 15, 2017 for its inaugural flights to the three countries.
This was, however, suspended at the last minute due to the industrial unrest by air traffic control (ATC) in Dakar.
Iwarah said the airline had to wait until the issue was resolved before making announcement for the new date.
He said: “We can confirm that our inaugural flights to the three destinations will now take place on Feb. 19.
“The new routes constitute the second phase of the expansion of our network on the West Coast of Africa.
“This is an exciting step in fulfilling our promise to unlock the economy of the region, offer air travellers seamless connectivity on business and leisure trips, as well as create jobs for the people.
Iwarah said the routes would bring the airline’s network to a total of 14 destinations.
“Air Peace made its first scheduled commercial flight out of Nigeria from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos into the Kotoka International Airport, Accra-Ghana on Feb. 16, 2017.
“The airline plans to operate flights to five other regional routes as well as six international destinations comprising Dubai, London, Guangzhou-China, Houston, Mumbai and South Africa soon,” he said.
According to him, the airline, which recently embarked on a project to increase its fleet size to 24 aircraft, will deploy a Boeing 737 aircraft on its Freetown, Banjul and Dakar routes (NAN)