By Chinelo Obogo, Lagos
Air Peace has denied claims it operated flights into Dubai (DXB) Airport as insinuated by the Minister of Economy for the United Arab Emirates, Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri.
Reacting to the November 10, 2021 letter written by Marri to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika accusing Air Peace of flying into Dubai, the Chief Operating Officer of the airline, Oluwatoyin Olajide, described the allegation as misinformed.
In a letter, Olajide said that Air Peace has only ever operated to Sharjah Airport and not into Dubai (DXB) Airport as insinuated by Marri who is also the head of GCAA.
“We believe that the Minister and the Chairman of the Board of the GCAA may have been misinformed of the true position of the issues in discourse as no one in such an exalted position and office would deliberately push out such untrue statement.
“He has our respects, but his letter has misinformed the public about the real facts against us. We do not see what wrong Air Peace has done in this whole saga. We are the ones being wronged and now we are being attacked from a quarter we least expected. Facts don’t lie. In aviation, there are things one cannot lie about.
“Operating into and out of an airport is one of them. When did such flight operations occur? Which slot did we operate? For an airline to conduct scheduled operations into and out of an airport, there are agreements signed with several parties, executed, and implemented.
“There is a need for the authority to provide the Ground Handling Company that handled the scheduled operations in Dubai Airport (DXB) for Air Peace. Air Peace has only operated flights into Sharjah Airport alone.
“Air Peace has never been given slots at the Dubai International Airport. Slot availability was used to deny us operating from that popular airport as it was our first choice. It was the politics of slot unavailability that did not allow us to operate into Dubai Airport directly. The lack of flight slot angle forced us to approach the Sharjah Airport as a last resort.
“We were welcomed by the government and people of Sharjah. While we were denied slots in their most important airport, the Dubai Airport, Emirates has always enjoyed red carpet treatment in Nigeria where they were given our most important airports- Lagos and Abuja where they operate a total of 21 flights weekly. We only asked for three flights weekly at the Sharjah Airport and we got same and started operations on the 5th of July, 2019 until Covid-19 lock-downs in 2020.
“Contrary to the letter, Air Peace never ceased operating from Sharjah International Airport since we started in July 2019. We only stopped when every other airline was forced to stop normal scheduled flight operations as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown that permitted only evacuation flights.
”We did several evacuation flights out of Sharjah. So, we never left Sharjah Airport nor did we at any time ‘shifted’ and operated out of DXB (Dubai Airport). The letter deliberately painted us as unserious while at the same time, suggesting that we look for other airports in the country to operate from.
“After the restriction of scheduled flight operations between UAE and Nigeria was lifted towards the last week in November 2021, we approached the Sharjah Airport and GCAA with a request to allow us to operate a charter into the UAE on December 01, 2021. To our surprise and, despite the lifting of the ban on flight operations between both countries, they refused. They said they would not allow charter but scheduled flight operations.
“However, we then, in obedience to their demand, announced resumption of scheduled operations beginning from that date and we opened our sales to the public. Three days to departure, they were yet to approve the flight. They came back 48hours to our expected departure to UAE denying us slot to operate the flight. When we pressed on, they told us that they would accept us only if we did not bring a wide-body aircraft but a small one. We had 250 passengers to transport and using a small aircraft as they suggested was impossible,” Olajide said.
Recently, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) withdrew the approval given to Emirates Airline to operate 21 frequencies from Nigeria after the UAE gave approval to Air Peace to operate only one frequency to Sharjah airport. The regulator directed that Emirates must also operate only one frequency in response to the UAE’s reduction of Air Peace frequency from three to one.