Bilateral economic relations between Nigeria and Ghana recently received a boost with the launch of Lagos-Accra flight operations by Air Peace Airlines.
The operations aim to fast-track the movement of passengers and cargo across the neighbouring West African countries, promoting trade relations.
Meanwhile, Air Peace on Tuesday took delivery of its 12th aircraft. The 114-capacity Boeing 737-500 will enhance its operations on both domestic and international routes.
Recall that while the banking and telecomms sectors currently form the crux of the formal bilateral economic ties, there are more in the informal sector between the two countries.
Air Peace, which made the inaugural Lagos-Accra-Lagos flight, last week, joins Arik Air and Med-View Airlines currently on the route courtesy of the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA).
The Guardian observed that the new entry was quite strategic, coming at a time Arik Air temporarily suspended its Lagos-Accra operations. Besides, Air Peace’s 7am daily flight from Lagos and 8am return trip adequately suit the need of international business community on both ends.
Acting Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana, Adekunbi Sonaike-Ayodeji, among a host that received Air Peace Boeing 737-500 aircraft to a fanfare at Kotoka International Airport, Accra, said the airline came at a time the bilateral diplomatic and trade relations between the two countries were due for a new height.
Sonaike-Ayodeji was, however, confident that the operations of Air Peace would deepen the relations, describing it as a feat for Nigeria.
According to her, “The coming of Air Peace confirms that things are working at home. To decide coming to Ghana means that a success story has been recorded at home. We already have the Nigerian presence here with the United Bank for Africa (UBA), Guaranteed Trust Bank (GTB), First Bank, Access Bank and so on. With Air Peace coming now from the private sector, it is to confirm that our bilateral is not government to government but also people to people.
“Nigeria is more or less enjoying the opening of the ECOWAS protocol. At the same time, we are also encouraging Ghanaians to go to Nigeria, because our population put together is about 200 million. That is something great for economic growth,” she said.
Air Peace, which is making waves on the domestic front as the best patronised, said the inauguration of the Lagos-Accra-Lagos flight was a launch pad for its inroad into the west coast and other international routes.
Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the airline, Oluwatoyin Olajide, said Ghana was chosen because it is a gateway to Africa and with a lot of potential.
Olajide said: “We believe strongly in the people of Ghana, and we believe that commencing from Ghana and eventually making it a hub for us will be a big reality.”
The Ghanaian government, it would be recalled, is implementing a master-plan to turn-around the Kotoka International Airport, Accra, as the new hub for airlines flying in and out of the West African region.
Immediate past administration last year slashed the price of aviation fuel by 20 per cent to attract airlines, including those plying Nigerian airspace, to come to Ghana.
Olajide assured the market that it will not lower the high standards the airline had been known for, adding that “we are in Ghana to offer nothing but the best air travel experience and treat our customers with the greatest respect.”
On fleet explanation, she added that customers remains their greatest asset, and “their support and loyalty have ensured our rapid growth, expansion and choice as Nigeria’s preferred airline.”
“At a time the aviation industry is facing a lot of challenges, we have continued to show strength and maintain very high standards. Our banks and other creditors have also been very supportive because of our integrity,” Olajide said.
Representative of the Director-General of Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Eric Mireku Amaning, said the regulator was pleased to welcome Air Peace to Ghana, assuring the airline of all necessary support
Amaning said the GCAA would not compromise on its safety standards and will ensure that all aircraft operating in the country abide by the rules and regulations of the organisation.
Corporate Communications Manager of Air Peace, Chris Iwarah, said Lagos-Accra flight will run daily, ahead of the Abuja-Accra-Abuja leg that will soon come onboard
Founded in 2014, the airline currently operates from its base in Lagos to seven major cities across Nigeria.
The airline said the Accra flight would mark the beginning of its foray into different regional and international destinations, including Abidjan, Douala, Dakar, Niamey, South Africa, Dubai, Mumbai, Guangzhou-China, Atlanta and London.