Shola Adekola, Lagos
The Israeli government has confirmed that Air Peace’s inaugural flight to Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel-Aviv, Israel would be on April 20, 2023.
This is a great feat for the airline and a huge relief to Nigerians and Israelis who have to travel for 27 hours from Nigeria to Israel via other nations as a direct flight between the two countries would take just five hours.
The Israeli Minister of Transportation and Road Safety, Brigadier General Miri Regev who disclosed this in Israel, noted that this would be a historical feat, as there had never been a direct flight between the Middle East nation and Nigeria.
“Nigeria’s flag carrier Air Peace will begin operating direct flights to Israel for the first time, starting on April 20, the Minister of Transportation and Road Safety announced today (Sunday).
Regev on behalf of the Israeli government approved the aviation agreement signed between Israel and Nigeria and submitted it for government approval.
According to him: “The signed agreement will for the first time allow the airlines of each of the countries to operate regular flights at Ben Gurion Airport to several destinations in Nigeria, such as Abuja and Lagos. In the first phase, the Nigerian company (airline) will operate two weekly flights between Israel and Nigeria.
“So far, no direct flights have been operated between the two countries and the thousands of pilgrims who come to Israel every year from Nigeria have flown through Turkey or Ethiopia. The agreement will allow Israeli and Nigerian airlines to make direct flights between the countries and increase the number of pilgrims who come to Israel every year,” disclosed an Israeli embassy source.”
The Brigadier General said Israel has started opening new routes to connect the world and identified Nigeria as one of the leading countries in Africa that maintained close ties with Israel.
“Recently we have witnessed a wave of new routes being opened to destinations all over the world, and I am happy to announce the launch of direct flights to Nigeria as well. Nigeria is one of the leading countries in Africa, and it maintains close ties with Israel in a wide variety of fields, along with traffic of pilgrims who come to Israel to visit the holy places of Christianity. I welcome the opening of the new line and am sure that it will contribute to strengthening the business and cultural ties between the nations and between the governments”.
When contacted, the elated Chairman and CEO of Air Peace, Allen Onyema said that the airline was prepared for the inaugural and subsequent flights to the Holy Land, disclosing that it would begin with two flights a week and increase frequency with time.
Onyema commended the governments of Nigeria and Israel, saying that they made it possible, breaking old barriers to make direct flight between the two countries a reality, adding that it is an indication of the strong relationship between the two countries.
He also disclosed that the airline had completed plans to begin three times a week flight service to Jeddah and Medina in order to make it easy for Nigerians who wish to travel for pilgrimage, adding that it is in fulfilment of the promise the airline made to Nigerians of connecting them to domestic destinations and to the world.
He expressed confidence that the airline would secure approval from Saudi authorities for the flight service and in next few days would announce the date for the schedule flight operation.
Air Peace, which started operation in 2014, has recorded many firsts being the first Nigerian carrier that met the stringent safety and security standard of Israel, which enabled it to evacuate Israeli citizens during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.
The airline which has started direct flight to China and on March 31, would launch another direct flight to India.
Air Peace which has recorded the fastest growth by fleet in the African continent was the first in Africa to operate the new Embraer E195-E2 and it is expecting more deliveries of the aircraft in addition to receiving seven Boeing B737 MAX 8 and eight Boeing 737MAX 10 from 2023.