Aviation industry regulator, the Ghana Civil Aviation authority (GCAA), is to meet all dormant airlines by the end of this month to ascertain the cause of their inactivity and collectively decide on a roadmap for resumption of their operations.
“We are meeting them to find out their current situation so we can work together to get them operational again,” Simon Allotey, Director-General of the GCAA, told the B&FT.
Though there are 13 Ghanaian valid Air Operators Certificate (AOC) holders – which allows them to operate domestic and regional passenger and cargo flights – as at March 2018, only seven are active.
A further eight airlines which hold valid Air Carrier Licences (ACL) are working with the regulator toward attaining an AOC to enable them start their operations. However, some have stalled the process by their inability to meet stringent regulatory requirements.
The meeting, expected to come off by close of the month, will help determine when pioneering airlines City Link and Antrak, as well as Starbow and others, resume operations to existing domestic airports and the soon-to-be-inaugurated Wa and Ho airports.
The need for such a meeting has become imperative given the growing investment in on ground airport infrastructure, but there are not enough active airlines to serve the growing domestic and regional aviation market.
The airports operator, Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL), has invested about US$400million in constructing a new airport at Ho, rehabilitating the Wa aerodrome, and the construction of a new Terminal, Terminal 3, at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA).
The regulator has also spent significant sums in the acquisition of navigational equipment for the Ho, Wa, Tamale and Kumasi airports in recent times.
The demise of local airlines
Antrak Air and City Link led the growth of domestic air travel in the country more than a decade ago. They were later joined by Fly 540, Starbow and Africa World Airlines (AWA).
A combination of managerial fragilities, difficult operating environment, lack of financial muscle in a cash-intensive industry, and poor equipment choice are but a few of the challenges that brought most of the domestic operators to their knees.
City Link suspended operations five years ago due to various reasons. Fly 540 – a part of African Airline Group, FASTJET – also in May 2014 suspended all operations, saying: “The Company intends to fully focus on the considerable potential of opportunities in East and Southern Africa, and this legacy 540 operation is not therefore part of the core low-cost FASTJET model”.
Antrak Air, a pioneer in domestic air travel, initially suspended its operations for three months in June 2015 following challenges with its wet lease arrangement with Swift Air, a Spanish airliner, for the use of the latter’s two ATR 72-500 turbo-prop aircraft.
The airline, in a statement announcing its decision to suspend operations said: “During this period we will be looking at reorganisation, as it concerns our business model. We have been compelled to strategically suspend all operations from the domestic market, with the aim of restructuring to meet the rapidly-changing and competitive environment.
“We are in advanced talks to take delivery of our own aircraft, which will give us more flexibility and less restrictive scheduling. We will return with the most convenient schedules, competitive fares and friendly service.”
Unfortunately, any such reorganisation has taken more than two years – with no hope yet of resuscitating the pioneering airline.
The collapse of the three main domestic airlines left Starbow and AWA as the only two carriers offering domestic air services to four main destinations across the country.
Starbow’s suspension of operations a few months ago has left only AWA to serve a growing demand for domestic air travel.