Antigua Airways boss vows his airline will be ‘pride of the Caribbean’ as gov’t holds talks with another Nigerian carrier

Antigua Airways made its inaugural visit to the island on Independence Day last year
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By Robert A. Emmanuel

[email protected]

Managing Director of Antigua Airways Opeyemi Olorunfemi has expressed confidence in his airline following the news that the government is in talks with another Nigeria-based carrier.

During last week’s post-Cabinet press briefing, Information Minister Melford Nicholas said Lagos-based airline, Air Peace, was holding discussions with the government.

Olorunfemi told Observer in an interview that it was “still in discussions” but he was confident about the Antigua Airways project.

“We are going to do whatever it takes to make Antigua Airways great and we are ready to put our hands together on that to make sure that we make Antigua Airways the pride of the Caribbean,” he said.

Founded in 2013 by Nigerian lawyer and businessman Allen Onyema, Air Peace is a private Nigerian airline and is reportedly the largest airline in West Africa.

According to the company’s website, the rationale behind Air Peace was to “create massive employment opportunities for Nigerians, thereby contributing to the well-being of our people”.

According to Minister Nicholas, this was part of the government’s commitment to establishing commercial relations between West Africa and the Caribbean.

“We have had engagements with an established airline, Air Peace, and we are still continuing those discussions, and in the likelihood we are able to conclude those negotiations, we would see the establishment between us and West Africa,” he said.

Moving on, Olorunfemi said the company was working to address regulatory issues with the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA).

Antigua Airways has been operating over the last few months as a chartered airline due to the inability to obtain an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC).

Olorunfemi said, following the decision to temporarily halt charter flights from West Africa, the company will be working towards compliance with ECCAA rules.

“Antigua Airways’ ultimate goal is to get into scheduled operations … and we are working hard to ensuring that we get all those regulatory laws and rules … in place,” he said, adding that the company was in good communication with ECCAA.

Antigua Airways, a partnership between the government of Antigua and Barbuda and another Nigerian investor and owner of Marvelous Mike Printing Press, was touted as the twin island nation’s first direct air connection to West Africa.

However, controversy has surrounded the airline after an Abuja-based tour company, reportedly named FastFlyLinks Travel & Tours, apparently mirrored its model to advertise and facilitate flights from West Africa to Antigua and Barbuda—for a hefty fee of US$5,000 per person.

The cost for a flight on Antigua Airways was reportedly US$3,500 to US$4,000, according to the Managing Director while speaking to Twin Island Media in a separate interview.

Olorunfemi maintained to Observer media that FastFly had no affiliation with Antigua Airways.

Many of the visitors — some of whom are Cameroonians — hoped to reach the US and other developed countries by traversing through South and Central America routes. However, they have been left virtually stranded with the administration now looking to repatriate many of them back to the country where a civil war is raging.

Olorunfemi said the decision was a logical step accounting for the situation of the last month.

“We’re also looking into how it could be cleaned up, looking at the whole situation in terms of passengers coming in, especially with what the other charter company have done and causing confusion,” he noted.

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