The new aircraft, the first of such in scheduled commercial operations in Nigeria, is seen as a game-changer for the local industry that has always been dependent on used equipment and dubbed high-risk.
The state-of-the-art mid-range equipment is expected to arrive to a fanfare at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, at 1 p.m. today. The aircraft has 124-seater jet in dual class and 146-seater jet in single class configurations.
Recall that the local airline in April 2019 placed a record order for 10 brand new Embraer 195-E2 planes, first of such in Africa. The order comprises purchase rights for another 20 E195-E2 jets.
The deal, which was unveiled during Embraer Business Meeting with the aviation world in Port Louis, Mauritius, makes the Nigerian airline the first to order the brand of jets on the continent, and also the official launch customer of the brand in this part of the globe. With all purchase rights exercised, the contract has a value of N640.5 billion ($2.12 billion) based on recent price list.
Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, recently told The Guardian that the aircraft were due for delivery to Nigeria in 2020, but for the disruptive effects of the coronavirus pandemic. He had promised to receive the aircraft in October last year, until forex scarcity stalled the schedule.
With the hurdle over, Onyema said Embraer’s new E195-E2 presents “a marvel of economic performance. It is also great that we will be the first E2 operator on the African continent. We already have the ERJ145s in our fleet, so we understand the high standards of Embraer products.”
The E195-E2 aircraft, the chief executive observed, would strengthen Air Peace’s drive to deploy the right kinds of planes to under-served and unserved domestic and regional routes under its no-city-left-behind project. `
Onyema thanked President Muhammadu Buhari and Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, for creating an enabling environment for the growth of the aviation sector through duty and Value Added Tax (VAT) waivers for commercial aircraft, engines and spares.
Vice President, Sales Africa, Embraer Commercial Aviation, Raul Villaron, noted that the Nigerian carrier embodied the kind of pioneering spirit his company loves.
In a related development, the airline has expanded its local operations with the reopening of routes that were closed during the outset of the pandemic and activate fresh destinations.
The new routes to be launched in February 2021 are: Enugu-Kano-Enugu, Enugu-Asaba-Enugu, PHC-Kano-PHC, PHC-Kaduna-PHC, Ilorin-Lagos-Ilorin, Ilorin-Abuja-Ilorin and Ibadan-Abuja-Ibadan. The suspended routes to be resumed are Kano-Owerri-Kano, Kano-Asaba-Kano, Lagos-Yola-Lagos, and Abuja-Yola-Abuja.
The airline’s Chief Operating Officer, Oluwatoyin Olajide, said the airline would be receiving all its aircraft on overseas maintenance in February. Hence, the decision to launch the new routes as well as reactivate suspended ones.
Olajide explained that the planned launch of the new routes was an exemplification of the airline’s strong commitment to meeting the air transportation needs of Nigerians, driving economic development and fostering unity among various parts of the country.
“As you know, most of our aircraft are on maintenance in different parts of the world but they are all returning in February, 2021. For us, it is great news as this means the launch of new routes and the resumption of routes suspended consequent upon the COVID-19 outbreak,” she said.
Olajide added that the new connections were also testament to Air Peace’s ‘no-city-left-behind’ initiative and unbridled determination to provide an affordable access to safe and seamless connectivity across Nigeria and beyond.
Air Peace currently operates 16 domestic routes, five regional routes and two international destinations, one of which is South Africa, launched in December, 2020. The airline also boasts of a fleet size of 26 aircraft and is steadily expanding its fleet.