by Carlena Knight
After a near 12-hour journey across the Atlantic, the inaugural flight of Antigua Airways landed at the VC Bird International Airport on Tuesday.
Over 100 passengers disembarked the charter flight which departed Lagos, Nigeria on Monday and is scheduled to return to the motherland on November 6th.
The CEO of Euro Atlantic Airways, Eugenio Fernandez, Founding President of the Nigeria Antigua and Barbuda Chamber of Commerce, Emmanuel Samson, and Managing Directoe of Antigua Airways, Opeyemi Olorunfemi were among passengers.
However, the CEO and investor of Antigua Airways, Marvelous Mike, was not on the flight.
While local government officials did not give a reason given by as to why he was not on the flight, they did announce that he would be arriving in Antigua and Barbuda on Thursday.
His children, Mercy and Marvellous Akinola, were however among the VIP personnel who arrived yesterday.
The Nigerian dignitaries were greeted by top government officials to include Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez, Foreign Affairs Minister Chet Greene, Ambassador Johan Hesse, and CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, Colin James.
Other dignitaries included the President of the Nigerian Association in Antigua and Barbuda, Adolf Iwuji, and President of the Ghanaian Association in Antigua and Barbuda Lebrecht Hesse, among others.
The aircraft was greeted with a water cannon salute and brief remarks were shared by both Minister Fernandez and Minister Greene.
Both men pointed out that it was a monumental occasion for Antigua and Barbuda as years of promises to develop a greater trade link with the motherland have taken a major step with this new airline.
They both spoke on the importance of creating a greater bond with the people of Nigeria and Africa on a whole, due to both countries sharing history regarding the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
This, they mentioned is a true 360º turn as “although our ancestors were once forced to travel to these waters, many will now get the chance to do so freely while rebuilding both nations’ economies that were impaired by the Covid-19 pandemic”.
No exact date was given for when the airline would begin making commercial flights, however all the parties involved did give their commitment to ensuring that will happen in a timely manner.
There are long-term plans for the route from Lagos to Antigua and Barbuda to be followed by a route from Antigua to Canada, before the carrier heads back to Nigeria.
Antigua Airways is a partnership between the Government od Antigua and Barbuda and a Nigerian investor, and marks the twin island nation’s first direct air connection to West Africa.
The carrier is also set to play a role in boosting regional connectivity, through some yet-to-be-finalised partnership with LIAT 2020.