The Commercial Manager of British Airways (BA), Mr James Wooldridge, has advised the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) not to license more airlines until existing facilities at the nation's lone international airport – the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) – are expanded to meet the growth in the aviation sector.
Given that existing airlines and their passengers are already struggling to cope with the limited space and facilities at the airport, Mr Wooldridge said licensing more carriers to operate into and out of the country would only complicate the congestion and deepen the frustrations and discomfort of passengers and airlines alike.
“Why not, they can license new ones but the best thing will be to first expand facilities at the airport. If not, it will only add on to the congestion," BA’s Commercial Manager to the country told the GRAHIC BUSINESS in Accra after briefing journalists on the airline's operations in the country.
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His comments come in the wake of rising passenger and air cargo throughput at the KIA, the only international airport in the country, following tremendous growth in the local aviation industry over the past few years.
While the number of regional and international carriers have more than quadrupled within the last five years – rising from 13 airlines around 2007 to 30 as of December 2012 – aircraft movements have also nearly doubled, according to data from the Aviation Authority and the Ghana Airport Company Limited (GACL).
The data further showed that international aircraft movements into and out of the country rose from 13, 733 aircrafts in 2006 to 22,284 as of 2011, representing a 62.2 per cent increment over the five-year period.
International passenger throughput – the number of people flying into and out of the country – has also risen significantly. It increased from 926,595 people as of 2006 to 1.59 million in 2011, according to the data.
Air cargo into and out of the country has also rose from 95,336 metric tonnes in 2006 to 145,761 by close of 2011, the data further indicated.
The significant growth in the industry notwithstanding, airport and other aviation facilities continue to suffer from meaningful expansion works that would bring them in line with trends in the industry.
A visit to the KIA shows aircrafts competing for space to park while others struggle to land.
There is also limited space for cargo screening by immigration officers, passengers are made to be on long queues waiting to be searched prior to departures while taxis struggle with private cars for parking space at the outskirts of the airport.
The congestion notwithstanding, airlines continue to knock at the doors of the GCAA – the industry regulator – for licenses to operate into and out of the country.
BA’s Commercial Manager, however, said the Aviation Authority must temporally shut its doors to those airlines and help other industry stakeholders to expand existing facilities at Kotoka.
“We are all familiar with the congestion at Kotoka and it is as a result of the more carriers in the system. Now, if you add more (airlines) to operate with those same facilities, then you will only be complicating the problem,” Mr Wooldridge said.
He dismissed assertions that licensing more carriers will only tighten competition in the sector, causing some airlines, including BA, to lose their customers.
“We are not afraid of competition; not all. It is even good to have more airlines because that in itself promotes competition with the attendant consequences on prices and good service.”
“But you look at the congestion at the airport and you realise that having more carriers will only complicate the problem,” he noted.
The aviation authority has often maintained that Ghana’s airspace
is opened to genuine airlines that are ready to contribute to the development
of the industry why enriching the country’s drive towards becoming an aviation
hub in the sub-region and Africa at large.
Story by Maxwell Adombila Akalaare/Graphic Business