Government has signed an agreement with Doha-based Qatar Airways for the Middle Eastern airline to start scheduled flights between Accra and Doha, while Air Namibia – which pulled out of the country some four years ago – has started discussions to re-start operations this year.
Passengers travelling to the Middle East, Far East and South East Asian Countries are expected to benefit from reduced fares – given the anticipated competition between Qatar, Emirates and Addis Ababa-based Ethiopian Airlines.
Aviation Minister Ms. Cecilia A. Dapaah said: “We have signed an agreement with Qatar Airways. Air Namibia wants to come back, and I believe other airlines are also considering coming over”.
She was speaking at the 2nd Aviation Breakfast Meeting organised by AviationGhana, an aviation-oriented PR organisation and online news portal, in collaboration with the Board of Airlines under the auspices of the Aviation Ministry.
The start of scheduled flights into Accra will make it the second city in the West Africa sub-region, behind Lagos, that the government-owned Qatar Airways serves.
The airline already has deep footprints in East, South and North Africa. It offers flights between Doha and Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Entebbe, Kigali, Addis Ababa, Djibouti, and Khartoum among others – all in East Africa. In Southern Africa, the airline operates flights to and from Windhoek, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Maputo.
Air Namibia comeback
Windhoek-based Air Namibia, which started operations in Accra in 2009 but had to close shop in 2014, is making a comeback. Ms. Cecilia A. Dapaah revealed that discussions are ongoing and the airline will soon re-start operations soon.
A major issue for the South African airline was the difficulty for passengers travelling from Ghana to obtain visas. Passengers hitherto had to obtain Namibian visas in Lagos. The Namibian High Commissioner to Ghana, Charles B. Josob, revealed that an Embassy has been established in Accra to process visas for travellers.
“It is quite easy to get a Namibian visa once you fulfil the very simple requirements, so the issue has been dealt with,” he said.
Support for AWA
Africa World Airlines (AWA) is now the only carrier providing domestic aviation services between the country’s capital Accra and major economic and commercial hubs such as Kumasi, Takoradi and Tamale.
The huge demand for domestic air services that AWA has to meet forced the airline to increase its frequency on the Kumasi and Tamale routes.
AWA is also Ghana’s only home-based carrier operating regional flights from Accra to Lagos and Abuja in Nigeria, and Monrovia in Liberia.
“We now have a problem with our domestic airline provision. AWA is now saddled with the huge responsibility of meeting demand. I am sure it is affecting the big guys, as local airlines bring people to Accra for onward transport by the big, long-haul carriers.
“We are looking at various ways to make sure we help AWA resolve this issue. Nobody wished the Starbow incident would happen, but it happened and we must deal with it. So, very soon, we will have some positive news,” Ms. Dapaah said
Ahmed El-Banhawy – Accra District Manager, EgyptAir – on Behalf of the Board of Airlines said: “It is gratifying to note that last year the Hon. Minister clarified the road map for positioning Ghana as a hub and spoke in West Africa.
“Furthermore, a fruitful discussion has taken place, as some requests were made by airlines and policymakers have showed true commitment to help address them.”
He added: “Along the year, a kind of collaboration between parties has been set: for instance, they prepared a draft for Passenger Rights and Consumer Protection Directives in cooperation between GCAA and airlines. A visit was arranged by GACL for the airlines to see developments at the new Terminal 3 at Kotoka International Airport that will soon open, and we need all the support to provide the best of service to our passengers and help to maximise the operation from there. Also, insurance cover provision is currently being discussed by the airlines and GACL.
Minister stays GACL’s insurance demand
The minister, at the meeting, directed the Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL) – the airports operator – to temporarily suspend the demand for all airlines to insure all their staff who handle ground operations at the Kotoka International Airport before passes are issued.
She said: “Airports Company, please hold on to that and issue their passes while further discussions are held about the policy”.
The decision was well-received by airlines, who said insistence on the new requirement would have increased their cost of operations.
GCAA, GACL to collaborate more with stakeholders
The Director General of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Ing. Simon Allotey, and Managing Director of the Ghana Airports Company Limited, Mr. John Attafuah, assured airlines of closer collaboration to ensure growth of the sector.
“We have invested in modern navigational equipment at the Kumasi, Tamale and Wa airports. We will work to ensure that safety is not compromised and guarantee the highest safety standards in the country.”
Mr. John Attafuah, on the other hand, said the new Terminal 3 at KIA is about 87 percent complete, while the Ho Airport is 95 percent complete. He disclosed that the new terminal has a prayer room for Muslims.