By Christopher Tom, Uyo
The management of Akwa Ibom state-owned airline, Ibom Air, has said the company was currently re-gigging operations with a view to competing in the international air space, disclosing that the five Bombardier planes on the IbomAir fleet have combined to airlift over 300,000 passengers since its inception about a year ago..
Besides, he Airline, according to the managers at a press conference at the correspondent chapel, and affiliated of Nigeria union of Journalists, Akwa Ibom State council in Uyo, has contributed more than N1billion directly and indirectly to the economy of Akwa Ibom people through vendors and suppliers within the period.
The Group Manager in-charge of Marketing and Communications of the Airline, Mrs. Aniekan Essienette assured that the Airline would continue to play its role as key vehicle for the economic development and growth of Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria.
The 300,000 passengers, Essienette explained excluded the COVID-19 lockdown period when there were no flights for more than four months.
She explained that the Airline was seriously working to carve a niche as one of Africa’s best, taking a cue from the Ethiopian Air owned by the government of Ethiopia and the Emirates Airline owned by the United Arab Emirate (UAE).
Essienette said the company was seriously strategizing and gradually consolidating to capture Nigeria and the West African sub-region before setting its sight on international routes after attracting more Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) into the state and Nigeria.
“We want to be to Akwa Ibom State, what Emirates Airlines is to Dubai and what Ethiopian Airlines is to Ethiopia. I believe we can achieve this with your continued support and those of the good people of Akwa Ibom state.
“In line with this aspiration, just in 2019 alone (our first year of operation), Ibom Air’s direct and indirect impact on Akwa Ibom’s livelihood and businesses amounted to over One Billion Naira.
” This is in addition to the employment of indigenes of Akwa Ibom not just in low and entry level to senior positions, but in the very highly skilled aviation professions of Piloting, Cabin Crew and Aircraft Maintenance Engineering.
” As a matter of fact, 17 young indigenous trainee maintenance engineers have qualified or are on the verge of being qualified as Bombardier CRJ 900 Aircraft Engineers.” She stated.
She said Ibom Air has within a short time become a model brand in the aviation industry and would build on recent successes to improve and expand.
“Since the 7th of June 2019 when Ibom Air commenced operations as a bold new idea with 3 Aircraft, now you can say that we are the “new kid on the block” and the whole nation has stood up and taken notice of what we have brought to the table.
“18 months down the line, Ibom Air currently boasts a fleet of five bombardier CRJ 900 aircraft (the youngest airline fleet in the country) and currently covers 5 destinations: Uyo, Lagos, Abuja, Calabar and Enugu, with an unmatched record of schedule reliability and on-time departure performance.
“In 2021, we shall be expanding to other routes which we would announce in due course.” Essienette said.
She said that the Airline, 100 percent owned by Akwa Ibom State Government currently has 200 staff including indigenes in its employ and plan to employ more as they expand.
Also responding to some questions, Director of Airline Services Ms Amaka Echetabu said that percieved delays in take off of flights were due to factors outside their control but insisted that the company would not compromise on safety.
Echetabu said the Airline’s trusted maintenance team has continued to conduct in-house maintenance as there has been no need for outside maintenance and would continue to train indegenes too to take over the maintenance of the air crafts.
The Director said that for now they would continue to concentrate on improving its domestic dominance while plans to go international would be strategic, and with larger air crafts when plans are finalized.
She maintained that Ibom Air aircrafts remained the newest in the country, increasing the Airline’s competitiveness adding that premium has also been placed on sourcing materials locally.