It has been one year since Nigerian startup carrier, United Nigeria Airlines made its debut in the aviation industry and so far the airline has had a seamless operation in the sector and is poised to continue the trend.
According to an article by Fred Iwenjora , published on ejigbocitydiary.blogspot.com, the maiden flight of the airline took off from Murtala Mohammed Airport Ikeja, flew many nautical miles east and landed at Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
That flight on February 12, 2021 took place just about 11 days after the airline got certified to fly in Nigeria.
By the way, United Nigeria Airline is owned by United Airlines Nigeria Ltd, one of the biggest of the diverse business interests of Anambra born billionaire business mogul Dr Obiorah Okonkwo, Dikeora of Ogidi, Anambra state.
After its first acquisition of 4 aircrafts was armed with the Nigeria air operations certificate as well as other international certification as IATA, U5, ICAO before its grand take off.
It had also set up headquarters in Enugu as well as offices across Nigerian airports in Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, P.H, Asaba and Owerri before the maiden flight.
Also, it soon acquired another plane to increase the fleet to 5 aircrafts in all.
A new office was also opened at the all new Umueri, Anambra airport in December 2021 and United Nigeria was the second airline to land on the well laid out tarmac.
All would agree that these are modest but great achievements for a young aviation business in one year. Try making a calculation of fees, levies and taxes, salaries and wages, aviation fuel, maintenances and running offices across the states etc. you would see that a business that has lasted for a year in Nigeria has tried and deserves a pat.
I have only been opportune to fly United Nigeria twice and my observations combined with a brief sample of the opinions of some of the passengers I met on ground say the past one year has been so far so good. It also says the future is bright.
From my Lagos take off point heading to Asaba, I observed a very courteous staff both on ground and in the cabin.
I couldn’t say whether it was because I checked in an hour earlier as I often did in order to avoid the rush when every one including staff are under intense pressure.
None could also tell whether the extra ordinary courtesy was because it is a 50 only seater Embrear plane with few passengers to handle.
But I also noticed high level of professionalism in the smooth take off and landing of the bird by the United Nigeria Airlines pilots and ground technical staff.
This is also a pointer to the fact that management of United Nigeria Airlines place high premium on its technical matters which is very key in the aviation business.
There was more than an hour’s delay on my return trip from Asaba. Almost every airline in the world could be blamed for delayed and even canceled flights. Several reasons were given for the delay. While one of the uniformed staff said it was due to weather, another said something else.
However, a uniformed staff also went around the lounge consoling its passengers at Asaba unlike what obtained at the MM2 Ikeja Lagos where poor communication from an inaudible PA system and none or not enough on-ground staff at the lounge to lead passengers almost caused some to miss the flight.
Yet again, at both intervals, after boarding, the pilot took the bird up and landed safely at its destination about 50 mins later. This is the main. Safe arrival has always been the best news ever for every traveler or flyer.
However, something struck me during the wait in Asaba. It became a test on the amount of goodwill Dr. Okonkwo has been able to acumulate for himself from the generality of Nigerian public including the passengers. I noted that the long wait at Asaba was non critical.
The passengers seemed to understand with the airline on the bad weather reason chatting endlessly in wanton happiness. None of the passengers said pim unlike the regular agitation in such situations. The former Senatorial candidate and recently Zenith Labour Party gubernatorial candidate in the just concluded Anambra state governorship election seems to have low or no bad press at all. His people oriented character may be reason for this.
Any man who could set up The Dome, an events and entertainment place hosting the world in Abuja and run political machinery in Anambra state in the past ten years and more, must be people oriented in the real sense of the word.
Any man who communicates through his many books and prolific lectures on communication, politics and economics is truly a man of the people and readily connects with them.
A man who could honor his late mum, Late Mrs. Okonkwo and his kinsman and a former leader in Nigeria’s aviation sector Sir Victor Ikwuemesi as well as Blessed Virgin Mary of Miracles, Blessed Iwene Tansi and a host of others by naming some of his aircrafts after them must have much love for humanity and loyalty to family, friends, catholic faith, community and country and a heart filled with gratitude for so much. It is my guess that this goodwill is enough to kill bad press. Many who have met him closely commend this so called PR sense.
No wonder since the first sell out of tickets on its maiden flight from Lagos MM2 to Akanu Ibiam airport Enugu, United Nigeria Airline ticket has continued to be a regular sell out.
As the one year birthday anniversary of United Nigeria Airlines draws nigh and as validity of its operations certifcate begins its second year run, let’s try and set an agenda for management. Would they be reading this? I hope they do.
First on my agenda is that more thoughts should be devoted to the consolidation of its business contracts with all its passengers and their destinations which is safe arrival in comfort and on time too.
Second is that the company should continue to do and even improve on those technical things that drive for overall safety like it has done in the past one year.
The capital intensive nature of the aviation sector notwithstanding, there is need also to invest in the acquisition of one or two bigger aircrafts in the coming year to service the new improved passenger loyalty and enlarged routes.
A bigger aircraft may avert the issue of turbulence which created panic and caused the return to take off point of a PH-ABJ bound United Nigeria Airline flight in June 2021.
This is more like a tall order in the aviation business for a company that just started operation but it is still possible to get this done except if abinitio it has been the original intention of the owners to fly smaller crafts with a managable passenger manifest.
In a recent brief chat with spokesman for the airline, Mr. Achilleus Chud-Uchegbu he disclosed with infectious enthusiasm that the past one year has “been good for the airline and its passengers and stakeholders”. According to him “United Nigeria Airline has flown to unite as the motto reads; flying to unite.
The vision of United Nigeria Airlines is to be Nigeria’s number 1 airline and the mission is to continue to provide efficient and prompt services. The future is very bright as we have also started Osubi, Warri and Benin is in the offing.”
I believe him and must add that there is need to clink glasses and celebrate because like an Anambra man would say; Odiro fecha fecha.
By Fred Iwenjora