Aviation soars back to pre-pandemic levels

By Joshua Worlasi AMLANU

The skies are once again buzzing with activity as the aviation industry makes a comeback from turbulence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Deputy Minister for Transport Hassan Tampuli.

Speaking at the CANSO Africa Safety and Operations Workshop in Accra, Mr. Tampuli declared that the industry has “fully recovered” and is “on track for growth”.

Passenger traffic figures underscore this resurgence. By the end of 2023, the country saw 2,914,661 passengers pass through its airports – a remarkable 25 percent increase from the 2,328,750 recorded in 2019 before the pandemic disrupted global travel.

“Ghana has experienced overall growth in air passenger traffic on both domestic and international routes over the past few years,” Mr. Tampuli emphasised.

Domestic travel has also rebounded strongly, with 775,662 passengers taking domestic flights in 2023 compared to 690,314 in 2019.

The rise in aircraft movements tells a similar story of an industry spreading its wings once more, he said, adding that “the number of international aircraft movements and domestic movements is also on a steady rise from the slump during the COVID era”.

However, he stressed that this resurgence must be anchored in an unwavering commitment to aviation safety and security. “Aviation safety is a shared responsibility that requires our collective effort and unwavering commitment,” he declared.

Government has invested heavily in this area – funding infrastructure upgrades, new technologies and regulatory reforms. “Our goal is to ensure that every flight, every passenger and every crew member returns home safely,” Tampuli stated.

But he cautioned that economic gains could quickly evaporate if safety protocols are not rigorously followed. “Obviously, the many economic benefits will elude the nation if we lose sight of re-enforcing safety and security protocols, as particularly stipulated in ICAO Annex 17 and related Standards and Recommended Practices (SAPRs).”

Continuous training, investment in state-of-the-art equipment and fostering a culture of safety reporting are critical, according to the Deputy Minister.

Explaining further, he said: “It is important that we create an environment where everyone feels comfortable and confident in reporting safety concerns without fear of retribution, and where safety is truly prioritised above all else”.

Mr. Tampuli highlighted the expertise of Ghanaian aviation professionals, noting there will be presentations from mid-level experts from Ghana – showcasing the wealth of talent and expertise that exists in our country.

As travel demand increases, the Deputy Minister acknowledged mounting challenges of efficient airspace management, safety oversight and passenger facilitation: “We have already made significant progress, and we must continue to strive for leadership in safety and security within the West African region”.

However, he warned that any laxity on the part of stakeholders could undermine industry confidence and potentially halt the progress made in building a vibrant aviation industry.

To meet these challenges head-on, government is investing in aviation infrastructure across the country. Mr. Tampuli cited the recent inauguration of Nana Agyemang Prempeh I International Airport, which includes a state-of-the-art air traffic control tower and radar system in Kumasi, Ashanti Region, and the developments at Tamale International Airport which also went online last year.

“As we continue to navigate challenges and opportunities in the aviation industry, I urge all of us to remain vigilant and proactive in our approach to the air transport industry’s safety. Let us continue to collaborate, educate and innovate in positioning the sector to drive economic growth while prioritising safety as our north star,” he urged.

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