Barring any hitch, another set of 320 Nigerians trapped in xenophobic attacks will arrive the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Tuesday September 17, 2019, The Nation has learnt.
Towards a successful air lift, a Boeing 777 – 300 belonging to Air Peace and its crew will depart Lagos in the early hours for Oliver Tambo International Airport.
This will be the second batch Nigerians to be evacuated after 187 Nigerians arrived Lagos last week.
Confirming this on phone, Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, said the airline was working with the Nigerian High Commissioner in South Africa, who confirmed the on going profiling of Nigerians billed to return home.
Onyema said the airline is fully mobilised for the operation, saying efforts are on to deploy a bigger aircraft with capacity for 367 passengers to bring home Nigerians who are willing.
He said the High Commission has prepared over 350 Nigerians for the flight, hoping that the sour experience of flying an aircraft half full, as it experienced last week is not favourable to the airline.
Onyema said the carrier would be willing to deploy a bigger aircraft – with capacity to air lift over 367 passengers, if it is sure that the affected Nigerians would scale the relevant immigration and other hurdles set by South African authorities.
According to him: “Air Peace is fully mobilised for the next batch of evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa.
We did not suspend flights, we only waited for the Nigerian High Commission in South Africa to prepare the next batch. The whole idea is not fly a half full aircraft, which would make us incur more costs and other logistics.
“We are fully set for Tuesday, our aircraft and crew will leave about four o clock and get to South Africa about Nine o clock for the operations. We hope about 350 Nigerians are ready, so that we fly enough passengers not to leave the aircraft empty.
“As an airline we are ready to bring back from South Africa all Nigerians willing to return. We , however, thank President Muhammadu Buhari for the opportunity to carry out this national service. The president did not play politics with this matter.”
Meanwhile, bookings on South African Airways has reduced significantly, since xenophobic attacks spiked in the country.
Checks with travel agencies in Nigeria revealed that the airline has suffered drastic reduction on flight bookings since the attacked reached its peak.