By Chinelo Obogo, [email protected]
First officer, Adeola Ogunmola, the only Nigerian female pilot in Qatar Airways, made history recently as she flew in the airline’s inaugural flight to Kano along with Qatari Captain Mohammed Abdulla.
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The 254-seater Boeing 787 Dreamliner landed at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport at 11:10 a.m. on Wednesday and was welcome with a ceremonial water shower by officials of the Aerodrome and Fire Rescue Service of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). The Qatari national carrier, commenced inaugural flights to Kano and Port Harcourt as part of its expansion programme in Nigeria with the flight to Kano being welcomed by the Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado Bayero, officials of the Kano State Government, and representative of the Minister of Aviation among others.
Elated to be bringing in the historic flight, First officer Ogunmola, said it was a great honour to be part of the crew that made the trip. She expressed gratitude to her parents for believing in her dreams of becoming a pilot and to the airline for giving her the oppourtunity to serve.
“I am the first officer on this inaugural flight, it is such a great honour for me and I am highly elated to be part of this airline. Right from when I was young, I have always been passionate about being a pilot. As a young child, whenever any aircraft flies past, I would clap for them and I said to myself that one day, I would certainly know what keeps an aircraft in the air.
“Aspiring to become a pilot was very challenging, coupled with the fact that I am not from a wealthy background, it took a lot of sacrifice from my parents to get the finances to see me through school. I have been a pilot for nine years and out of that time, I have been with Qatar for three years. I started my training as a pilot at Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria. I spent two years there and decided to go and finish up in the US,” Ogunmola said.
In his welcome address, the Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero, traced the history of the airport and said that Qatar will find that the population of the state will be an immense opportunity especially as they are approaching the Umrah season. He also said he believes that the airline will enjoy a lot of patronage especially with regards to cargo services.
“We thank God for a day like this and we are grateful that Qatar decided to start operating in Kano. You will get all the support that is needed and we are confident that there coming here will bring about more opportunities. We are grateful to the government of Nigeria for giving the approval for the airline to start operating here and we are also grateful to the Qatar airline for making a conscious decision to come here,” the Emir said.
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The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who was represented by the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu, said Nigerian aviation started in Kano as the state is the hub of commercial activities in northern Nigeria. He said Qatar airways coming there was a big deal which he believes will increase commercial activities as the state would enjoy global connectivity.
“The new flights provide important travel and trade links between Nigeria and the world. As the largest economy in Africa, this enhanced global connectivity via the new Qatar Airways service will provide a vital network to move goods and people as we recover from the challenges of the pandemic and priotise growth. Kano and Port Harcourt are both important to this recovery. This new service also reinforces the close ties between Nigeria and Qatar and it paves the way to explore new untapped oppourtunities,” Captain Nuhu said.
Afterwards, Qatar Airways’ Vice President for Africa, Hendrik du Preez, said the new route would connect Kano via Doha to more thatn 140 destinations across its network.
He said; “Kano has been a trade and travel hub for hundreds of years and by linking it to the world’s best airport, Hamid International Airport in Doha, we hope to grow the traffic between these two important hubs. We anticipate particular demand to and from India and other markets. We also expect there will be strong cargo demand.
“We have been steadfast in our commitment to Africa throughout the pandemic and have since increased our frequencies and considerably improved connectivity to and from the continent, providing passengers with more choice and convenience. We offered three weekly flights to Abuja via Lagos in November 2020, which grew to four direct flights to Abuja in December 2021. In addition to the four weekly flights to Kano via Abuja, we also started operating three weekly flights to Port Harcourt from Thursday March 3. This will bring the number of services we operate between Africa and Doha to 188 weekly flights, serving 28 destinations across the continent.
“This is one of our newest aircraft and we know that it would be well suited for this market. Besides the fact that we can carry lots of people at the same time, the plane also has lots of room for cargo. The aircraft has 22 seats in business class and 232 in economy. Passengers flying to and from Kano will also benefit for the new baggage allowances which provides for up to 46kg in economy class, split over two pieces and 64kg, split over two pieces in business class. Kano is a big trade hub and opportunities for cargo that we have will facilitate trade between Nigeria and Qatar.
“Qatar is the first global airline in the world to achieve the prestigious 5-star COVID-19 airline safety rating by Skytrax. This award provides assurance to passengers around the world that the airline’s health and safety standards are subject to the highest possible standards of professional, independent scrutiny and assessment.”