DÉBUTANTE, United Nigeria Airlines has said that it is negotiating an additional two (2) Embraer ERJ145 aircraft to help its consolidation plans on the domestic route and aims to procure a bigger aircraft soon to aid in strengthening its all round operations.
This is just as the airline has also revealed that it is in the process of acquiring land space from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) in a bid to set up its own Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) facility aimed at serving the airline and others both domestically and in the sub-region.
Chairman of United Nigeria, High Chief Obiora Okonkwo revealed some of the airlines medium and long term plans when he held a press briefing with members of the League of Airports and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) stressing that the airline is here for the long haul and has lofty plans for the industry. READ ALSO: United Nigeria starts operations, eyes West Coast for long term expansion
Explaining the bold moves, High Chief Okonkwo said that the Embraer 145 for the airline was a good fit especially with regards fuel efficiency, load factor and breaking even but that what advantages it has in those it loses in space and so the airline in the near future might consider a bigger aircraft.
“The ERJ 145 is a good fuel efficient aircraft and we are negotiating and finalizing an additional two (2) Embraers and by then we would have consolidated on certain routes and we would have consolidated on certain passenger loads and then we plan to probably consider a large body aircraft. As you may know, the ERJ may have all its advantages but it also has its own little bit of disadvantage in terms of luggage and all that. A typical Nigerian will want to travel with a lot of things and so the challenges are there. We would want to do something to accommodate that shortly and very soon, so far we are getting around those challenges.
“We have gone through due diligence before we earmarked the ERJ as choice of aircraft and the fuel utilization is a huge advantage. It might surprise you to know that the evening we got our Air Operators Certificate (AOC) we opened our portal and the first flight within 12 hours we have full passenger load,” the Chairman said.
United since commencing operations eight (8) weeks ago says it has airlifted 25,000 passengers already, with an average of 3,200 passengers weekly.
On its plan to establish its MRO, the Chairman said that United Nigeria is already in talks with foreign partners and those talks had reached an advance stage. READ ALSO: United Nigeria Airlines AOC ready as other new entrants set to get approvals
He further stressed that the airline was in for the long haul and that is why the airline is building capacity in –house to handles A-Checks 1A-3A and the acquisition of land from FAAN to build their own facility was one of their plans to be met in 24 months although now two (2) months behind.
“On our maintenance, we have our own maintenance system and we have quite experienced engineers and all the necessary tools to maintain our aircraft from 1A TO 3A in-house. So that is our starting point but on a very short term, we have started our processes of acquiring land space with FAAN, FAAN is currently having some issues with space identification and clearing the available space with all the interested party involved. We are still in touch with them and we are hoping in no time, they will be able to allocate us the necessary space we need to be able to start our own.
“But on a takeoff, we gave our selves 24 months to be able to do our full C-Check in our facility and also offer that service to other stakeholders in the industry, so with that we are already two months behind schedule but we hope very soon FAAN should be able to clear that up for us and we will embark on that project so that is our medium and long term maintenance plan and when that is done we will be saving ourselves some foreign exchange in the industry,” he said.
Director of Administration of the airline, Mr. Linus Awute who spoke also said the airline was trying to grow organically and so is not mistaken its recent successes in passenger traffic for the norm and that it why it has not introduced more aircraft immediately.
He said that United is also learning its limitations while in the foray and eventually the airline would grow into an employee invested company where everyone is aligned to the interest of the company and build it from ground up.