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Jamaica embraces historic direct flight from Nigeria

Elizabeth Agboola

As a means of (re)connecting with descendants, and strengthening bilateral relations, Nigeria embarked on a historic chartered flight to Montego Bay, Jamaica, in December 2020.

Living caught up with the mastermind behind the pioneering initiative, Elizabeth Agboola, the British-Nigerian founder of travel company, Nigerians Travel Too. She explained that it was always a lifelong dream of hers to assist in the efforts of this Nigerian-Caribbean connection.

What started out as a jest at a diplomatic dinner in Abuja in November of 2019 turned out to be the grandest gesture any nation could ask for. While at the elegant affair, Agboola engaged in light conversation with Jamaica’s High Commissioner to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Esmond Reid. She suggested bringing a group of Nigerians to Jamaica for a visit. This brought about light-hearted laughter, since there were direct no flights between the two countries, but Reid said that one of these days his dream would come true, through a chartered flight.

Agboola probed a little further and the high commissioner indicated that he would reach out to the Nigerian Airline Arik. The airline was thrilled but didn’t possess an aircraft big enough to accommodate those travel plans. The company then contacted Allen Ifechukwu Athan Onyema, founder of Air Peace Airline, to see if he would be able to facilitate this brilliant idea. The rest, as they say, was flying history.

Agboola went to work marketing Jamaica as the destination of choice for the Christmas season. She flew from London to Lagos, speaking with 40 agencies about flying Air Peace. But then all plans came crashing down with the hit of the global pandemic, COVID-19. Despite the setback, Agboola sealed the deal with the airline. “I knew if I waited till 2021 to get this project off the ground I would have to start from scratch again,” she told Living.

On December 21, 2020, a flight of 132 passengers departed from Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, and arrived at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, St James. On-board were Agboola; Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama; his wife Sulola Onyeama; his delegates and others. The journey lasted 12 hours and all COVID-19 protocols were observed by the airline. They were greeted by government officials and Jamaica Tourist Board representatives. The Nigerian tourists spent a week and returned to Nigeria, having had the best Christmas experience ever.

Agboola hope to take this dual connection and cultural celebration into 2021 and expand the reach from solely flying to Jamaica to visiting other Caribbean countries.

This tour, dubbed Easter In the Caribbean, is scheduled to take place in April. Plans are already under way for a two-way flight, where Jamaicans will be able to travel to Nigeria and embark on an exciting tour of Africa in April.

“If you are doing business in the country or looking to do business there, then this flight will make it easier for you to do so, since it is a central location to other places of interest within the continent,” she said.

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