The Untold Story of Air Peace: How One Man's Vision Transformed Nigeria's Aviation Industry

Starting an airline is a big risk and requires a lot of money. In Nigeria’s tough aviation world, Air Peace’s story shines as a sign of never giving up, staying strong, and aiming for the best. Founded in 2013 by Allen Ifechukwu Onyema, Air Peace had a big dream: to change how people fly in Nigeria, create lots of jobs, and show the world what Nigeria can do in aviation.

According to Allen Ifechukwu Onyem;

“My journey into the airline business wasn’t planned. Back in 1998, some pilots asked me to invest in a cargo plane operation. Even though I wasn’t sure about it, I decided to give it a shot by using money from selling some of my properties.. Sadly, it didn’t work out, and I lost both money and hope. It took me nine long months of pushing hard to finally get my money back from the investment.

It wasn’t until 2007 that I reconsidered aviation. I felt frustrated because my efforts to assist people weren’t yielding the desired results. Many of the aspiring and established entrepreneurs we funded ended up returning for more assistance, adding to my frustration. A friend proposed a different approach: creating jobs instead. This prompted me to explore industries with significant job creation potential, and aviation, which had already piqued my interest, was suggested by my friend. Despite my apprehension about the risks involved, my desire to help people ultimately drove me into the aviation industry.

I discussed it with my wife and we concluded on diving into the aviation business, even though we didn’t know much about it. We learned as much as we could, with the help of people like Gbolahan Abatan, who knew about aviation. We started planning to create our aviation business with the name; “Air Peace”.

Onyema chose the name ‘Air Peace’ because of his interest in promoting peace, a passion that dates back to his university days. Consequently, it’s no surprise that many of his non-business endeavors are directly related to this interest.

Getting the licenses and approvals we needed was tough. First we had to obtain the Air Transport License.

After that I was surprised to learn that I also needed an Air Operator’s Certificate(AOC); it shows how inexperienced I was. And I appreciate Engr. Gbolahan for mentoring me and teaching me the essentials in the business, even though we later had disagreements and parted ways. I still acknowledge his role in laying the groundwork for my Air Peace journey.

Getting the license called the Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) took almost two years, which was way longer than we expected. What made it more frustrating was that many other people who applied after us got their license before us. Some people even said it was because we’re Igbo, but I didn’t pay much attention to that.

While we were waiting, we got frustrated seeing our competitors getting their licenses while we were still stuck. We already had seven planes, hired a good company to take care of them, and had hired over 250 Nigerians. But it felt like success was slipping away from us.

The pressure got to me and my team. There were times when we felt like giving up and closing the business. Even though other countries wanted us to set up in their country, I didn’t want to take a massive job opportunities meant for Nigerians outside.

I almost decided to shut down Air Peace one night. I started telling my staff about it, but before I could go through with it, something amazing happened. Engr. Ben Adeleke, who was in charge of the aviation authority, showed up at our office. He was furious when he heard what we were going through. With his help and determination, we finally got our license. It was a huge relief and a major milestone for Air Peace.

Even after we finally launched Air Peace, it wasn’t easy. But every obstacle made us stronger and more determined. Today, Air Peace is West Africa’s biggest airline with over 40 planes and 4,000+ employees, over 22 routes (including India, United Kingdom, UAE, Israel, China and many more), and we’re proud of what we’ve achieved. It’s been a tough journey, but we’ve had amazing support from our passengers and employees every step of the way.”

Here are the list of major routes covered by Air Peace:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Cameroon
  • China
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • India
  • Israel
  • Ivory Coast
  • Liberia
  • Nigeria
  • Niger
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • South Africa
  • United Arab Emirates

Here are the names of planes excluding the numbers of them owned and used by Air Peace:

  • Boeing 737-300
  • Boeing 737-500
  • Boeing 737 MAX 8
  • Boeing 777-200ER
  • Boeing 777-300
  • Embraer ERJ-145
  • Embraer E175
  • Embraer E195-E2

List of Active Airlines in Nigeria:

  • Air Peace
  • Aero
  • Allied Air
  • Arik Air
  • Azman Air
  • Dana Air
  • Dornier Aviation Nigeria
  • Green Africa Airways
  • Ibom Air
  • K-Impex Airline
  • Kabo Air
  • Rano Air
  • Max Air
  • Overland Airways
  • United Nigeria Airlines
  • ValueJet (Nigeria)
  • West Link Airlines

One of the key factors contributing to Air Peace’s success is its commitment to safety, reliability, and customer satisfaction. The airline prioritizes adherence to strict safety standards and has invested heavily in modern aircraft and equipment to ensure passenger safety and comfort.

Air Peace has also been praised for its innovation and expansion efforts. The airline has continuously expanded its route network, offering both domestic and international flights to destinations across Africa, the Middle East, and beyond. This strategic expansion has helped Air Peace capture a significant share of the market and establish itself as a leading player in the region.

Air Peace has also become known for its corporate social responsibility efforts. Founder Allen Onyema has played a significant role in philanthropy, such as offering humanitarian assistance during crises like the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa and the Sudan war, which involved evacuating Nigerians from Sudan back to Nigeria. Additionally, the airline supports education and youth empowerment programs.

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