Chief Operating Officer of Africa World Airlines (AWA), Mr Apiigy Afenu, has underscored the need for domestic carriers to forge a united force to push more strongly for the resolution of the issues facing Ghana’s aviation sector.
Mr Afenu says the issues facing the sector must not be discussed in the public forum, as it creates unnecessary antagonism between government and airlines that condemn infrastructural challenges in the media.
He said “although there is petty jealousy [among domestic airlines], there are many things that should unite us.”
Ghana’s aviation industry faces many challenges. Key among them is high cost of aviation fuel, deplorable runways at key airports and high insurance levies on vehicles that go on the tarmac.
But Mr Afenu says “these myriad of issues affect us equally which if we are united, probably we can better have [them] resolved quickly.”
Speaking In an exclusive interview with Myjoyonline.com, Mr Apiigy also expressed his displeasure at recent comments in reaction to a plan by government to start a national carrier.
Mr Afenu said although some of the concerns cited by these critics about government's plan for a domestic carrier are legitimate, there was the need for circumspection in establishing those concerns.
Recently, Alhaji Asuma Banda, Chairman and Founder of Antrak Group, issued threats of a legal suit against government if it goes ahead with plans to start a national carrier.
Alhaji Banda is of the view that a decision to start another national carrier – after the bitter experiences of Ghana Airways and Ghana International Arlines – may not be in the interest of the country.
Previously, Ghana Airways Limited, founded in 1958, had been the national airline with the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) as its hub. However, the airline – ridden with debt – ceased operations in 2004. Attempts were made to revive its fortunes, but to no avail; and in June 2005 the airline was liquidated.
In 2010 government signed a partnership agreement with Arik Air of Nigeria in an attempt to relaunch the Ghana Airways carrier, but the deal was still-born.
Government has indicated that it is committed to settling all outstanding issues with the last national carrier, Ghana International Airlines (GIA) – which suspended operations in May 2010 – before proceeding to set up a new one.
The Antrak Group boss, however, says such a plan could be detrimental to Ghana's already feebel, troubled economy.
But Mr Afenu believes government can bring in a technical partner to manage it in the form of a Private Public Partnership (PPP).
"Who says government must necessarily put money in it? Government can decide to have only a carried interest. You don’t get up and just say something without knowing the exact implications of what you are saying. Government doesn’t have put one dime in it”, he said in reaction Alhaji Banda's threats.
Also, Aviation Expert and former manager of the erstwhile Ghana Airways, Edward Nii Lantey-Quaye, has also described the threats by Alhaji Asuma Banda as an unnecessary move.
Mr Lantey-Quaye also believes due to the booming aviation industry, Ghana stands to benefit tremendously in owning a national carrier.
Although many airlines have indicated they may close shop due to challenges in the sector, the Africa World Airlines boss remained positive about the sector.
Mr Apiigy Afenu revealed that the Africa World Arlines will soon begin a third afternoon flight to Tamale.
Also, he said before the end of this year, the airline will begin flights to Lagos, Abuja and Freetown.
“Freetown flights will start on December 2nd”, he disclosed.
Africa World Airlines will also begin flights to Brazil next year to cash in on the World Cup tournament. Mr Afenu, however, explained that the World Cup in Brazil is not the only reason they are will be flying to that destination.
According to him, trading activities between Ghana and Brazil, especially imports from Brazil, makes the route a very viable one.