Air Peace has big growth plans, and wants to operate all kinds of long haul routes. London is the next destination on Air Peace’s radar, but the airline isn’t happy with what it’s being offered there. The Nigerian privvate airline led by founder and CEO Allen Onyema, is making waves in the aviation industry as it seeks access to London’s prestigious Heathrow Airport. After a seven-year wait for approval from the British aviation authority, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the airline is now determined to secure the coveted Heathrow slots.
Air Peace’s journey to secure the right to operate flights to the United Kingdom has been far from straightforward. Waiting patiently for seven years, the airline finally received the UK Third Country Operator (TCO) authorization from the CAA, a milestone that has opened doors to new horizons.
Now, with the authorization in hand, Air Peace’s sights are firmly set on London, a key destination in its ambitious growth strategy. However, the airline’s insistence on Heathrow access is making headlines and raising eyebrows.
Heathrow vs. Stansted or Gatwick
Allen Onyema, the visionary leader behind Air Peace’s rapid rise, has made it clear that he will not settle for second-best. While some have suggested alternative London airports such as Stansted or Gatwick, Onyema has firmly stated, “I’m not going to Stansted or Gatwick.” His unwavering stance is rooted in the reciprocity principle enshrined in the bilateral air services agreement (BASA) between Nigeria and the United Kingdom.
The principle dictates that just as British Airways enjoys the privilege of flying to Nigeria’s most important airports, Air Peace should have access to Heathrow, the primary airport in London. For Air Peace, it’s a matter of fairness and reciprocity: “It has to be Heathrow or nothing at all,” Onyema is quoted saying according to The Whistler Newspaper.
Heathrow Airport is renowned for its stringent slot allocation system, where landing and takeoff slots are both valuable and highly competitive. Moreover, slots at Heathrow are managed independently by Airport Coordination Limited (ACL), not under the purview of the UK CAA.
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.
Air Peace has nearly three dozen planes, including some former Emirates Boeing 777s. With its current long-haul fleet comprising one Boeing 777-200 and two Boeing 777-300s, – on average around 21 years old, the airline is poised for further expansion and modernization.