Madam Cecilia Dapaah, the Minister of Aviation, Tuesday asked international carriers operating in Ghana to form partnerships with local and regional airlines towards expanding their businesses and making Ghana an aviation hub.
She said data on aviation and travel patterns show that there was an opportunity for local airlines to grow and expand their operations beyond the borders of Ghana.
She was speaking to airline operators at a maiden Breakfast Meeting organised by Aviation Ghana, an online aviation news portal to provide a platform for the Ministry and stakeholders in the sector to engage, bring up challenges and find solutions to them.
Madam Dapaah said the Ministry’s key objective was to establish Ghana as the aviation hub in the sub-region, thus the need to ensure that the requisite elements were in place to achieve that goal.
Quoting statistics from the International Air Travel Association (IATA), she noted that the global airline industry was growing, with some 3.8 billion passengers carried; 54.9 million tonnes of cargo lifted; an estimated $650 billion spent by air travelers; and international trade shipped by air valued at $5.5 trillion in 2016.
Data from the Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL) also indicate that while Europe remained a popular destination for travellers from Ghana; West Africa was also gaining momentum following the liberalisation of the airspaces of major economies in the sub-region.
The European route had commanded 37.6 per cent of the outbound traffic from Ghana as at end of the first quarter of 2017.
West Africa followed with 20.3 per cent, East Africa-14.5 per cent, Middle East 9.9 per cent, North America 6.5 per cent, and Southern Africa-5.5 per cent.
Madam Dapaah noted that the West African Sub-region, with its youthful population of more than 350 million, represented one of the biggest markets on the continent for air travel and presented huge potential for the growth of aviation.
“It is my hope that, as an aviation fraternity, we will find solutions to whatever challenges we face,” she stated; and urged the operators to explore ways to make airfares more affordable and also improve the quality of their services.
She also reiterated the Government and the Ministry’s commitment to create a good environment to attract global airline brands and service providers and to strategically position Ghana’s aviation industry for the envisaged growth.
Mr James Eric Antwi, Chief Executive Officer of Starbow Airlines, speaking to the GNA prior to the closed session of the meeting, said some of the main concerns that he would raise as a domestic airline operator was the lack of appropriate aviation infrastructure at the various domestic airports.
He noted that the domestic airlines faced challenges in their operations during the Harmattan seasons as visibility became poor and they found it hard to operate their regular schedules to destinations such as Kumasi and Tamale, due to lack of modern navigation systems.
“…we keep on disappointing our customers,” he stated. “We need to have proper navigational systems, modern ones at those airports so that we can run our schedules during the Harmattan because when customers lose confidence in our services, they don’t come back again”.
He also raised concerns with fifth freedom rights given by Ghana to other countries in the Sub-region based on the Yamoussoukro Decision, saying those countries were not committed to giving those same rights to Ghanaian airlines, and put impediments in the way of those who demanded.
He, therefore, urged the Ministry to address the issue.
He also complained about the unfair competition posed by international airlines that also operated regional routes, saying it was important for authorities to limit such operations to enable domestic airlines remain competitive.
Mr. Hendrik Du Preez, Emirates Airlines Country Manager for Ghana, said while Ghana’s quest to make the country the preferred aviation hub in the sub-region was commendable, it was important to ensure that international airlines played their part to support the vision.
He noted that although Emirates operated flights from Abidjan to Accra, it was mainly to feed their international flights and was not a major route.
“As competition increases, there’s a lot of factor we’ll need to look at,” he said. “Pricing will go down, which will make it more accessible for people to travel and this is the ultimate goal; get more people to travel to fill up the capacity of international airlines and get more people to come through here.”