More Airlines Get Licenses

Competition in the domestic airline industry is expected to intensify, as more operators are set to begin operations in Ghana. So far four airlines are in talks with the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) to undertake the necessary procedures to enable them start business. The Director General of the GCAA, Air Cdr Kwame Mamphey, in an exclusive interview in Accra, noted that the operations of the four operators would boost the industry. “They are coming soon. They have been licensed,” Air Commodore Kwame Mamphey said. The four airlines include Pison, Eagle Atlantic, Africa World Airline and Air Shuttle. So far, City Link and Antrack Air are the only airlines that fly passengers from the Kotoka International Airport to other parts of the country. However, there have been complaints by both passengers and potential passengers about the exorbitant fares charged by these two airlines. A passenger who wants to fly from the Accra Kotoka International Airport to the Kumasi Airport is expected to pay at least $200 for a one way flight. While operators have explained that the high fares is as a result of high operational cost, some stakeholders, including the Air Commodore Mamphey, believes increase in competition might give passengers some respite. The GCAA Director General, who expressed optimism said, “We want the market forces to determine the fares. Amba Sagoe, a Director at City Link admits the fares are expensive, saying “it is a challenge we need to look at.” Speaking at a day’s symposium to mark the 25th anniversary celebration of the GCAA in Accra, where local airline operators were charged to make their services attractive to the public, the City Link Director noted that the unattractiveness of the domestic flights could also be blamed on public perception that it is more risky to travel by air than to use the other means. Only 0.66 percent of the country’s total population of over 24 million patronize the services of the domestic airlines. “The public need to know that in terms of safety no accidents have been recorded in the airline transport industry in the past decade or more not to talk of the robberies on our roads.” She explained that operators encounter difficulties in accessing finances from the banks as a result of the perceived high risk nature of the industry. Apart from the high cost of aviation fuel, acquisition of spare parts, maintenance of the aircraft abroad also contributes to the high cost of operations. “We have to carry out maintenance with foreign currency and it takes at least seven days to processes foreign exchange transfers,” she said, after proposing that the tax on the aviation fuel should be scrapped. The cost of skilled labour, she mentioned, also affects our operations. “The industry requires a high level of skilled labour but for instance we do not have local pilots and we always have to hire expatriates who do not stay for long.” She hinted that as a result of the lack of an aviation training school in the country operators have to train their staff abroad “and this is expensive.” Doreen Owusu Fianko, the Managing Director of the Ghana Airports Company Limited, said her outfit, as part of measures to boost the domestic airline industry, is considering upgrading the Tamale Airport to international standard. She said an international company is exploring measures to establish a base at the Tamale airfield to repair damaged aircraft.