Monday, September 16, 2013

■ GHANA: GCAA freezes issuance of domestic operator licences in response to Antrak's, Starbow's threats to pull out.

GCAAResponding to threats by local carriers Antrak Air (O4) and Starbow Airlines (S9) to withdraw from the oversubscribed Ghanaian market, the Ghanaian Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) says it has henceforth placed a moratorium on the issuance of domestic airline licences. At present, Ghana has four local operators including Africa World Airlines (AW) and Fly540 Ghana (5G). A fifth, CTK CityLink (CTY) went bankrupt last year.

Kwame Mamphey
In a report by Ghana's BF&T newspaper, the Director-General of the GCAA, Air Commodore Kwame Mamphey (Rtd.), said that four local operators were enough with those currently in the process of applying, doing so for a regional operators licence.
"Those that are going through the certification process are going to operate regional flights, not domestic flights," he said.
While Starbow and Antrak had both lamented the unviability of Ghana's domestic market citing poor infrastructure, high costs and non-existent margins, they also pointed to the presence of foreign operators which collectively had crowded them out of the regional market by virtue of their being awarded local traffic rights on intra-African sectors.

On the issue of regional operations, both carriers stated that the lack of lucrative traffic rights to neighbouring West African nations - Nigeria in particular - had curtailed their expansion plans. According to Mr Antwi, despite applying for routes to Nigeria in 2011, nothing  from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had been heard from since. Additionally, flights to Cotonou and Abidjan have been discontinued as a result of "unfavourable loads".
"Our inability to fly West Coast, especially Nigeria, has caused us a loss of GHC 21 million over the last year, since our aircraft are a specialised type and consume a lot with regard to fuel. Maintenance and other related costs are also high. As captured in our business plan, we want to fly domestic and regional. We have the equipment and are ready to fly to Nigeria," he said.
In the GCAA's defense, Cmdr Mamphey said that Antrak had been designated to serve Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, South Africa Germany and London "but they are not using it [in order to break-even and subsequently make profit]".

Regarding the issuance of Nigerian traffic rights, Cmdr Mamphey said the issue had been taken up with the Nigerian authorities with the matter now being discussed at a "governmental level".