“This is undoubtedly a big milestone as for the first time, a Nigerian airline is connecting both countries directly through scheduled commercial flights,” said Air Peace CEO Allen Onyema.
Nigerian airline Air Peace has made history as the first ever Nigerian airline to fly direct, non-stop to Israel.
The airline commenced scheduled operations into Tel Aviv, from Abuja and Lagos, on Thursday.
At the well-attended inaugural flight ceremony held at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, the Chairman of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema, said history has been made in the bilateral relations between Nigeria and Israel through the commencement of direct, non-stop flights from Lagos and Abuja to the city of Tel Aviv.
He asserted: “This is undoubtedly a big milestone as for the first time, a Nigerian airline is connecting both countries directly through scheduled commercial flights.”
Onyema said the airline was delighted particularly because the new route would provide huge respite to Nigerian travellers who henceforth do not have to travel to Israel through other countries, spending over 20 hours in stopovers whereas a direct flight would be less than six hours.
“Our entry into Israel today will open up more layers of opportunities and possibilities socially and economically and advance the implementation of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement between Nigeria and Israel.
“The connectivity will boost ‘religious tourism’, especially factoring the numerous Nigerians who embark on pilgrimage trips to Israel,” the Air Peace Chairman stated.
He stressed that the airline was familiar with the Israeli airspace as it operated evacuation flights to the country in 2020, following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Onyema expressed gratitude to the Israeli government, especially its Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Michael Freeman, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and other stakeholders whose efforts made this launch possible.
On his part, Freeman expressed joy over the new connectivity, stressing that it would help deepen bilateral ties between both countries and promote mutually beneficial economic engagements.
Also speaking, Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. David Umahi, commended Onyema for his strides in aviation.
He added that the growth of Air Peace had shown that a Nigerian could make sustainable global inroads in aviation as Air Peace was solidly representing Nigeria in the international aviation community.
He emphasised the socio-economic impact of the new route, especially in ‘religious tourism’.
Sirika, represented by Mr. Hassan Ejibunu, Director of Air Transport Management, Ministry of Aviation, reiterated the support of the government to indigenous airlines and promised government’s continued assistance to Air Peace in its route expansion drive.
The airline now has five international destinations, including the recently launched Mumbai, 20 domestic (with Maiduguri launching on April 21, 2023) and seven regional routes.