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IBOM AIR: Redefining The Aviation Industry In Nigeria - Aniekeme Finbarr

There is something that leaps for joy in the belly of every Akwa Ibom son and daughter, whenever Ibom Air is mentioned. It is certainly inexplicable, but it is real. In truth, there is that great feeling of pride whenever an Ibom Air plane takes off against the wind into the skies, that is Akwa Ibom State flying where it belongs - the skies.

Anietie Usen, a veteran journalist’s account of his first flight via Ibom Air is the average customer’s impression of what has come to be the definition of success in the aviation game in Nigeria.

‘My first surprise was the freshness of Ibom Air aircraft: very fresh, very clean, very clear leg room, very comfortable seats, feels like ‘tear-rubber’, very friendly crew and uniquely packaged and presented snacks in State colours of orange, green and white.

‘I am very much at home with the Nigerian aviation industry, dating back to 1975, when I boarded my first flight from Calabar to Lagos with Nigeria Airways. As Aviation Correspondent of Newswatch Magazine in the mid-80s, I went to work at the Lagos airport virtually everyday, wrote extensively about the industry and has remain a close watcher of the aviation sector. In 44 years of flying around the world, with commercial airlines, private jets, military carriers (C-130), this is the newest and freshest aircraft, I have flown in Nigeria.

‘And then, just as scheduled, at exactly 9:00am, Ibom Air taxied off the Apron unto the runway. Phew! It was seamless. Take off: smooth. Flight proper: smooth. Landing: smooth’.

Joseph Joseph Ekpeyong also recently wrote on Facebook: “No kidding, Ibom Air is really everything they've said about it. On time, extremely friendly officials, smooth check in and boarding procedures, and to cap it off, they give the takeoff instructions in Ibibio. I've always been looking forward to hearing Ibibio from a cabin crew. I have no reason to ever take another airline to Uyo”.

Retired American business executive and chemical engineer, Jack Welch had the story of Akwa Ibom State in mind when he said that "great leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion". Governor Udom Emmanuel by establishing Ibom Air has given flesh to the power, courage and foresight.

Akwa Ibom is the first state in the whole of Nigeria and indeed Africa to run a commercial airline business. Ibom Air struts the Nigerian skies today standing as a testament to visionary leadership and an acute determination to prove that what was once thought to be impossible can be made possible. The airline has proven the cynics wrong and showed the world that a viable commercial airline can be achieved. The choice of smart new planes and its management model has been a masterstroke, accounting for its ability to break even on every flight. Proudly, Ibom Air continues to operate the lowest average fleet age amongst Nigeria’s airlines, a fleet strategy to be a world-class African regional airline.

Recently, the airline took delivery of it’s fourth Bombardier CRJ 900 aircraft, the first of two recently purchased Bombardier CRJ 900 aircrafts, which is clearly in line with the fleet expansion strategy of the company. With this addition, Ibom Air fleet grows to four aircrafts.

Ibom Air’s newest plane records another first within the Nigerian aviation space. Ibom Air’s latest modern fleet of Bombardier CRJ 900 aircrafts all come fitted with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. HEPA filters are high-intensity filters that do not just filter dust, but effectively capture greater than 99% of the airborne microbes in the filtered air, including microscopic particles such as bacteria and viruses. Cabin air in HEPA equipped aircraft generally pass through the filters 20-30 times per hour, removing contaminants and greatly enhancing the quality of air in the cabin. A big first in Nigeria.

Since it commenced regular passenger services on 07-Jun-2019 with services to Lagos and Abuja from its base at the Victor Attah International Airport, Uyo, the airline has shown clearly that it is here to stay and expand. In January, Seven months after the commencement of commercial flight, Ibom Air has recorded over 97 percent scheduled reliability as well as about 3,000 operated flights.

The performance of Ibom Air has surpassed scheduled projections in the areas of scheduled reliability, on-time performance and on-time departure, the remaining three percent according to Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, Rtd, chairman of Ibom Airport Authority is due to weather and VIP travels.

Worthy also of note is that Ibom Air celebrated its passenger number 50,000 within just 100 days of hitting the skies.

As the the lockdown occasioned by the Covid -19 pandemic eases, Ibom Air will commence limited regional flight operation which will start with selected routes, including from Nigeria to Malabo (Equatorial Guinea) to Douala in Cameroon and Kinshasa (Congo) for the Central African route. The West African routes will include Accra, Dakar, Conakry, Abidjan and Monrovia.

Without the usual defeaning razzmatazz and media hyperboles that politicians employ to massage their egos, there is a gentleman in the southern part of Nigeria that once the passion, the strategy and the execution is right, nothing is impossible.

His name is Udom Emmanuel, Governor of Akwa Ibom State. In the last five years, he has set the oil rich state on a pedestal that will take many of its contemporaries time and craft to beat. From aviation to sports, health and critical infrastructure, the stories of growth and development are reverberating across the land.

For a leader who treads where others dread, Governor Udom Emmanuel has shown with his investments in Ibom Air, that greater things can happen in Nigeria with the right leadership.

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