Owning an Airlines is one of the most lucrative businesses billionaires can start and continue being so much wealthy and powerful in Nigeria, The Global General Aviation Market size was valued at USD 25.92 Billion in 2021, and it is expected to reach a value of USD 36.72 Billion by 2028, at a CAGR (Compound annual growth rate) of 5.10% over the forecast period (2022 – 2028).
Local or domestic Nigerian airlines let citizens and visitors fly to Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Enugu, Calabar, Abuja and other major cities within the country. International flights often belong to international corporations. Still, there are companies that offer both domestic and international flights in Nigeria owned and managed by Nigerians.
Let’s dive into the Top 6 Airlines in Nigeria and Their Founders
Air Peace Limited – Allen Onyema
Air Peace Limited was founded in 2013 by Allen Onyema, Air Peace is a private Nigerian airline with its head office in Ikeja, Lagos State, Nigeria, the flag carrier and the largest airline in Nigeria and West Africa.
Onyema claims that he started the airline with the intention of using it as an engine to provide economic opportunities to Nigerian youth. The airline began operations with Dornier 328s and Boeing 737s. In 2017, the first international route to Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana was launched. By 2018, Air Peace had the largest market share in the domestic airline market in Nigeria. That same year, the airline took delivery of its first Boeing 777s, and it commenced flights to Sharjah in 2019. Flights to Johannesburg, South Africa commenced in 2020.
Arik Air – Michael Arumemi-Ikhide
Arik Air is a Nigerian airline operating mainly from two hubs at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. Arik Air’s head office is the Arik Air Aviation Center on the grounds of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Ikeja.
The company was created in 2004 by Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide from the ashes of Nigeria Airways, which was liquidated in 2002.
In August 2006, the Federal Ministry of Aviation granted Arik Air authorisation to fly to Trinidad and Tobago and Amsterdam, London and Madrid in Europe. Furthermore, the airline then planned to fly to Atlanta, Miami, and Houston in the United States and Birmingham in the United Kingdom.
United Nigeria Airlines – Obiorah Okonkwo
United Nigeria Airlines was established in 2020 by Prof. Obiorah Okonkwo, a Russian-trained political scientist, businessman and entrepreneur. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of United Nigeria Airlines Limited.
The airline took delivery of four 50-seater Embraer ERJ-145LR aircraft during the second half of 2020. After rigorous examination by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which included test flights, NCAA granted the airline an AOC on 1 February 2021. The initial AOC is valid until 31 January 2023.
The new start-up received its Air Operators Certificate (AOC), on 1 February 2021. Headquartered in the city of Enugu, with an office in Abuja, and with its operations base at Enugu International Airport, United Nigeria Airlines started with four aircraft to operate scheduled flights between nine Nigerian cities: Abuja, Anambra, Asaba, Bayelsa, Delta, Enugu, Imo, Lagos, and Port Harcourt.
Azman Air – AbdulMunaf Yunusa Sarina
Azman Air was established in 2010 by AbdulMunaf Yunusa Sarina, and began operations in 2014 with its first commercial flight to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, on 15 May 2014 from Kano. The airline began operations in Nigeria with 2 Boeing 737-500 aircraft for its domestic services.
In October 2017, Azman Air leased a used Airbus A330 from an Egyptian charter airline (the now defunct Air Leisure) which would be used to fly international routes to both the Middle East and Asia. The airline has since discontinued leasing the A330, and, as of 8 February 2020, is only flying domestic routes within Nigeria.
ValueJet – Adekunle Soname
The ValueJet Airline was founded in 2018 by Kunle Soname, the Chairman of the sports betting website Bet9ja and owner of Portuguese football club C.D. Feirense
Kunle Soname is a Nigerian politician, entrepreneur, sports enthusiast and the chairman of Bet9ja, a betting website he founded in 2013. He is also the first Nigerian to acquire a European club C.D. Feirense which he bought in 2015. He is the Founder of the private Nigerian airline ValueJet (Nigeria). The airline commenced operations on October 10, 2022, with flights to Abuja, Port Harcourt, Asaba and Jos.
Green Africa Airways – Babawande Afolabi
Green Africa Airways was founded on 15 June 2015 by Babawande Afolabi, who serves as the chief executive officer. It was a new low-cost carrier targeting the Nigerian air travel market. Operations were originally planned to start in 2019, but have since been delayed. In mid-2018, the airline received the necessary operating licenses from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.
The journey to where we are today started in 2011/2012 when Babawande was an Investment Banker at Morgan Stanley where he had an exposure to the transportation sector. This experience further galvanized his interest in the space, which led to the idea of exploring a Pan African value carrier based in Nigeria. He wanted everyone, including his teachers at Ambassadors College, Ile-Ife, to be able to hop on a plane at an affordable fare and chase their dreams.