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Nigeria’s Air Peace Pushes for Heathrow Slots After Securing U.K Authorization

An Air Peace 737 (Photo: Anna Zvereva, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

Nigeria’s leading airline, Air Peace, has made headlines after securing its UK Third Country Operator (TCO) authorization. With this, the airline is now demanding access to London Heathrow Airport, invoking the reciprocity principle outlined in the bilateral air services agreement (BASA) between Nigeria and the United Kingdom. This development has reignited a diplomatic dispute that dates back to 2011 when similar issues arose.

Chairman Allen Onyema of Air Peace has emphasized the importance of Heathrow Airport for the airline’s expansion plans. Citing the BASA agreement between the U.K. and Nigeria, he insists that Air Peace should enjoy access to Heathrow, just as British carriers have unrestricted access to Nigerian airports, including Abuja and Lagos. Currently, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic both operate daily flights to Nigerian airports from Heathrow.

“It took seven years for them to come and do the audit and you don’t blame them. Now we have got the approval. The next thing is slot and they are telling us to go to Stansted or take Gatwick. I’m not going to Stansted or Gatwick. You come to the primary airport in Nigeria and by BASA, you enjoy the two primary airports. So, you will give me your own primary airport. It must be Heathrow or nothing. We waited seven years and we must be there,” the Chairman Allen Onyema told The Whistler newspaper.

Historical Diplomatic Spat

The disagreement over Heathrow access has historical roots. In 2011, Nigeria threatened to withdraw permission for British airlines to operate in the country after Arik Air faced difficulties securing slots at Heathrow. The dispute was eventually resolved, but it disrupted the airlines’ operations. Arik Air later discontinued the route in 2017 due to financial challenges.

Heathrow Airport is notoriously slot-restricted, and slot allocations are managed by Airport Coordination Limited, an independent organization. The British government cannot enforce slot allocation to specific carriers. This poses a challenge for Air Peace in its quest for Heathrow access.

As of the latest updates, Air Peace is the only Nigerian airline certified to operate in the U.K., according to the Civil Aviation Authority. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has authorized ANAP Jets, a business charter operator. There have been conflicting reports about other Nigerian carriers’ certifications for UK routes, with discrepancies between statements from the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and the CAA.

In other news, the Nigeria-based Air Peace placed a firm order for five Embraer E175 regional jets and has taken five purchase rights for larger E190/195 E2s. The contract is the latest in a series of deals between Air Peace and the Brazilian OEM, as the airline continues its fleet modernization policy, with its declared aim of becoming the operator of the largest and youngest fleet of aircraft in Africa. The new E175 contract paves the way for further regional expansion by Air Peace, Embraer said on September 14. Delivery of the 88-seat E175s is scheduled to begin in 2024. The order is valued at $288.3 million at list prices.

Victor Shalton

Author

  • Victor Shalton

    Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Victor’s love for aviation goes way back to when he was 11-years-old. Living close to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, he developed a love for planes and he even recalls aspiring to be a future airline executive for Kenya Airways. He also has a passion in the arts and loves writing and had his own aviation blog prior to joining AirlineGeeks. He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration at DeKUT and aspiring to make a career in a more aviation-related course.

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