Two weeks after it began business, I flew Ibom Air today, June 15, 2019. I did not plan to. My plan was to fly Air Peace to Abuja and connect a flight out of the country. Scheduled for 12:05, I booked Air Peace in advance and paid for it about a month ago, May 20, at 1:44 am; just as I was booking my international flights.
A week later, Air Peace sent me a ‘Dear Esteemed Customer’ email to reschedule the flight for 1:00 pm. Another week later, Air Peace sent another email to reschedule that same flight for 3:50 pm. Somehow I still managed to keep my cool. But three days to the trip, Air Peace again changed its schedule twice in three days, first to 5:10 pm and back to 4:00 pm.
At that point, I lost my cool and became frantic. Uncountable Nigerians have missed their international flights because of erratic domestic connections. Hurriedly, I called my friends working for airlines both in Port Harcourt and Uyo for a quick alternative flight, while I went online myself scavenging for anything that could fly me to Abuja for my international flight.
Effiong Ada Arong in Uyo Airport made an offer and proposed Ibom Air.
Ibom Air? Yes Sir, Ibom Air, Effiong said. No, I replied. But, by the way, what are passengers saying about Ibom Air, I asked. Sir, some say it’s good, some say the aircraft is small.
Born into the bad weather of last general elections and midwived by a governorship candidate, Governor Udom Emmanuel, the airline was seen mainly through the prism of party politics, praised or rubbished along partisan lines.
So here is Anietie Usen of APC, a well-known Bucharest, a close friend of Nsima Ekere, John James Udoedeghe, Umana Umana, Ita Enang, and Aloysius Etok, seated in Ibom Air aircraft, a Bombardier CRJ-900, Flight Z40206, Saturday, June 15, 2019.
In Akwa Ibom State, it’s nearly impossible for me to hide. So I had a somewhat tough time acknowledging greetings and shaking hands with known and unfamiliar faces.
My first surprise was the freshness of Ibom Air aircraft: very fresh, very clean, very clear legroom, very comfortable seats, feels like ‘tear-rubber’, very friendly crew, and uniquely packaged and presented snacks in State colors of orange, green, and white.
I am very much at home with the Nigerian aviation industry, dating back to 1976, when I boarded my first flight from Calabar to Lagos with Nigeria Airways. As Aviation Correspondent of Newswatch Magazine in the mid-80s, I went to work at the Lagos airport virtually every day, flew to all Nigerian airports, wrote extensively about the industry, and has remained a close watcher of the aviation sector. In 43 years of flying around the world, with commercial airlines, private jets, military carriers (C-130), this is the newest and freshest aircraft I have flown in Nigeria.
And then, just as scheduled, at exactly 9:00 am, Ibom Air taxied off the Apron onto the runway. Phew! It was seamless. Take off: smooth. Flight proper: smooth. Landing: smooth; just as I prayed. I turned to Sam Akpe, sitting by my side. We have not met for quite a while and we had spent the better part of the flight chatting, sometimes too loud for the comfort of others. He is a professional journalist, highly respected by his peers, my dear friend, who was actually my best man at my June 13, 1992 wedding. I asked him: “Samak what do you think? “Oh! It’s very good. This is my second time on the flight. It’s the same good feeling I experienced last week. The pilots are really good”, Sam said.
Not too far away from us was Dr. Henry Akpan, an urbane medical doctor and a fine gentleman. He joined the discussion. “It is impressive…see the carpet”. He couldn’t stop talking about the spacious legroom that took care of his robust frame and the truly Nigerian crew. Sure, the crew were not just a matter of ‘tiwantiwan’, ‘nyinnyin’ or Akwa Ibom names.
“But will they manage it well as a business?”, another man said from behind. Will government officials and party stalwarts fly free of charge? Will politics consume Ibom Air, as it does every good thing in Nigeria? Said a smiling elderly woman who was flying in the company of her daughter, as we landed: “I love this plane. It’s so beautiful inside. God bless Akwa Ibom o”.
For me, Ibom Air made my day. Am happy! Don’t know what I would have done today, without Ibom Air. Thank you Ibom Air.