A new local airline, United Nigeria, yesterday, commenced commercial flight services, deepening both capacity and competition across the domestic network.
Operating one of its four Embraer 145 airplanes, the airline landed its inaugural flight at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu at 11am, yesterday, to a reception attended by Enugu State Government officials, religious leaders and aviation stakeholders.
Chairman of the airline, who was also on the inaugural flight from Lagos, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, said the investment was to fill industry gap and unite Nigeria, explaining that the choice of Enugu hub was strategic for the airlines’ mission.
He said: “Our short-term goal is to consolidate. You can see we have a base in Enugu and we have to consolidate, establish all our routes and then work on expansion. We want to expand beyond Nigeria, starting from the West Coast, just for a start. We have a big plan.
“The market is huge; there is need for a lot of aircraft. We have full load in all the routes we have operated this morning. Today is the first day of our service, so that is good and it shows what will happen.
“I guess those who are in the business should be competing with us first. We should be the people they should be worried about, because we are new. We think that within the next three months, we shall be able to expand our routes.”
Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Prof. Malachy Okwueze, congratulated the airline for the feat, pledging the state government’s support towards its success.
Akanu Ibiam International Airport Manager, Cecilia Oguama, noted that Enugu was the right route to launch into the market, given the traffic increase now recorded.
“The traffic in and out of the airport has increased tremendously. We are now having between 6,000 and 7,000 passengers weekly. Before COVID-19, we had less than 1,000 passenger traffic, because we had only one airline then. In 2019, we only had Air Peace operating, but now, we have four others operating regularly, including United Airline.
“We have close to eight flights daily and United Airline has made Enugu their base, so they would enjoy tremendous support from the airport.’’
In a related development, the Airports Council International (ACI) has accredited the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa in its Airport Health Accreditation Programme.
The accreditation programme is designed to assess how aligned airports health measures are with the ACI Aviation Business Restart and Recovery guidelines and ICAO Council Aviation Restart Task Force recommendations, along with industry best practices.
Both airports have become the first and second, respectively, to be accredited in this programme, following efforts by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to ensure the safety and security of all travellers and airport users.