Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, today, welcomed United Nigeria Airlines, UNA, to the state as the carrier inaugurated scheduled flight operations to Benin.

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The airline’s services will link the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, NAIA, in Abuja and its base at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, MMA, in Lagos directly to Benin.

Obaseki welcomes UNA, as airline commences direct flight to Benin
With UNA’s entry, the count of carriers operating into the state has risen to eight.

Obaseki noted that this development would enhance competitiveness in airfares, offering travellers an expanded range of options.

Speaking at the inaugural flight of the airline to Benin, the Governor who was on ground to receive the airline and its crew members, recalled that about seven years ago when he came onboard, the airport had only one airline operating into it, but the effort of the State Government to collaborate with private investors and the Federal Government had further increased the airlines to its present eight.

He said: “Let me remind all of us here that when I came into office in 2016, late 2016 there was only one commercial airline flying into Benin. Today, we have the eighth airline coming into Benin and I heard that there is another one that we expect to start operation soon.

“So, in seven years, we have been able to attract seven new airlines into the marketplace and that has been made possible because of the openness and collaboration with the aviation authorities.

“I recall my meeting with the former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and the conversation at that time was that we were ready to collaborate with the Federal Government to increase the traffic flow into Benin City, Edo State.”

He asked the Federal Government through the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, to take as a priority the installation of night facilities like the Instrument Landing System, ILS, which would allow the airport to operate for 24 hours.

Obaseki stated further that the upgrading of the facilities would further increase the passenger surge into the airport and the state, adding that this would also boost the economic activities of Edo State.

He, however, assured that plans had reached the advanced stage for the installation of the equipment, assuring that some of these facilities would be installed before the end of the year.

Obaseki also lauded United Nigeria Airlines for joining seven other carriers to operate direct flights into the airport, maintaining that this would further make the airfares more competitive with arrays of choices for the travelling public.

Besides, Obaseki further assured of the provision of topnotch security arrangements during the yuletide season for all the visitors into the state, boasting that the state was the most secure in the entire South-South region.

Also speaking, Prof. Obiora Okonkwo, the Chairman of United Nigeria, expressed delight at the launch of direct flight services from Lagos and Abuja to Benin City by the airline.

Okonkwo, explained that the launch of the flight would enhance competition on the route, stressing that the airline would operate twice daily to the airport; one from Lagos and the other from Abuja.

He commended Obaseki for working on the talks about ensuring connectivity into Edo through air transport.

He explained that aviation was a major catalyst to any economic growth and hoped that other state governments would key into this and develop their states.

He said: “We are glad to be here. It is not about whether we are eight or seven. We have to thank the governor who took the initiative to invite us here. Discussion started in Lagos in 2022 and our team visited Edo State and today, we have fulfilled the first promise, which was to start flying here.

“I can tell you that we were encouraged by his own commitment and persistence. Many people have been talking about attracting investments only by rhetoric, but he matched his words with action. Not many people understand the importance of air travel to the economic development of any state. It is a catalyst.

“You can imagine a time you had only one airline coming in, and the number of passengers coming in then. All these things are what add to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a state. So, we think that until the time other governors understand the importance of aviation, there is no other magic to grow the economy of a state. So, we thank you, your excellency.”

He also appealed to the government to make Benin Airport a 24-hour aerodrome for increased activities.

Okonkwo maintained that competition would lead to improved passenger services and assured the airline was ready to compete.

He also disclosed the plans to commence direct flights from Nigeria and Italy, thereby becoming the first carrier to fly the route.

According to him, the airline was at the final stage of the agreement.