The proposed new national airline is expected to take to the skies in October, after months of preparatory works and tying up of loose ends in respect of the defunct Ghana International Airlines, Transport Minister, Fiifi Kwetey has said.
The start of the new airline will be a key milestone in the country’s quest to deepen its participation in the aviation industry following the collapse of the erstwhile Ghana International Airlines about a decade ago.
Mr. Fiifi Kwetey in an interview with the B&FT on the sidelines of a special stakeholders’ dinner in Accra to celebrate the first anniversary of South Africa Airways’ Accra-Washington said: “We are working to a time-table. We are working to see that by October 2016 we can have our first flight. So it is between now and October. We are working extremely hard to ensure we are able to achieve it. We are pressing very hard.
“Pushing towards that calendar, we have had a number of offers already. We have a lot of technical expertise on-going with South Africa Airways. We are not looking at being a majority shareholder but have significant minority.”
Mr. Kwetey further indicated that the new airline will look to dominate the West coast and before expanding to other regions; a strategy that is in line with the stance of other aviation analysts who believe that the new airline should rather look inward and dominate the continent before venturing to other long-haul routes..
Government has for sometime been seeking an experienced airline operator as a strategic partner to establish a new national airline for the country.
However, despite the seemingly advance progress government has made in re-establishing a national airline, the structure of the proposed new flag-carrier is currently imprecise. Interested parties, however, have submitted bids to the supervisory ministry which are being evaluated by the transactional advisor.
The Transport Ministry has said that government is not going to commit funds but will only seek a carried interest in the proposed new airline; an approach some aviation experts have questioned.
The Ministry of Transport, in an Expression of Interest (EOI) published in local newspapers, said: “The feasibility studies [for the establishment of a new national carrier] also demonstrated the new national airline will require partnership with an experienced strategic airline partner that has a global distribution network to adequately take advantage of opportunities in the market place”.
The partner, the EOI notes, ought to have good financial strength; technical strength in areas of IT systems and flight operations; maintenance yield and capacity management; good distribution network; and be a member of a global alliance.
These requirements effectively eliminate indigenous airlines that had expressed interest to partner government in establishing a new flag-carrier — given their network and financial strength at the moment.
After the collapse of Ghana Airways, the former national flag-carrier, government invited private participation in the establishment of a new national airline.
In 2004 Ghana International Airlines was established, with 70 percent shares held by the government and 30 percent held by a US consortium GIA-USA. Faced by a myriad of issues, the airline went down in 2010.