We need to improve domestic air transport

BY: daily graphic
We need to improve domestic air transport

On Sunday, August 19, 2018, a new entrant to the domestic airline space, Passion Air, took delivery of its first out of three pre-owned Q400 turboprops Bombardier Commercial Aircraft ordered for its operations.

The entry into the domestic airline space by Passion Air with its 78-seater aircraft bodes well for the country, in that it will afford more people the opportunity to make quick trips to parts of the country for business and other engagements at relatively low fares.

Since the exit of other domestic airlines such as Starbow, Fly540, Antrak Air and City Link, many prospective passengers, including those on transit have been stranded at the Kotoka International Airport, as well as other regional airports in Kumasi, Sunyani, Tamale and Takoradi.

Others who would have preferred air travel for their business trips had also been forced to use road transport, which had resulted in the loss of time and hold-ups of their businesses.

But while the Daily Graphic is happy that at last the cry of many Ghanaians for more domestic airlines to curtail the monopoly in the business and also bring about some competition and subsequent improvement in services has been answered, we believe that it is time for all stakeholders to thoroughly investigate what accounted for the collapse of the once vibrant domestic airline space and resolve to prevent it from going empty again.

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While the Starbows, Fly540s, Antraks and City Links remained airborne, they gave Ghanaians a lot of respite as far as domestic travel was concerned and also offered competitive choices to those who wanted to travel by air.

Whereas it is no secret that Starbow became grounded after its safety was brought in doubt following a crash involving one of its ATR 72-500s at KIA in November 2017, reasons why the other airlines stopped operation are sketchy.

It is, however, suspected that Fly540 stopped operations and flew out of the country in 2014 following losses it was making, while Antrak Air suspended its operations for three months prior to getting grounded in Ghana in June 2015, after it encountered challenges with its wet lease arrangement with Swift Air, a Spanish airliner, for the use of Swift's two ATR 72-500 turbo prop aircraft.

Before pulling out, however, it was reported in 2013 that the Founder and Chairman of Antrak Group, Alhaji Asuma Banda, said his company was contemplating pulling out of the country's airline business due to challenges in getting passengers.

While there were indications last year of a comeback by the defunct local airlines according to the Director General of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Mr Simon Allotey, especially after City Link in February 2017 renewed its air carrier licence after five years of inactivity, it is not certain when that would be.

For now, the Daily Graphic commends the GCAA and other stakeholders for facilitating the entry of Passion Air and welcomes the new airline into the domestic airline space.

While it is good for Passion Air to target 12 countries in the sub-region and over 180 million potential passengers out of Accra, the Daily Graphic urges the new company to heed the GCAA Director General’s advice to them to ensure they are always on time when they start flying to Takoradi, Kumasi and Tamale from the end of this month when they receive the full complement of the three aircraft.

We add that the airline must give passengers value for money and introduce innovative products to bring convenience at their doorstep, since that is what would make more people opt for their services.