Business News of Saturday, 16 August 2014
Source: Graphic Online
The number of Ghanaians traveling on domestic air travel increased to 780,000 in 2013 despite the poor facilities at the regional airports.
Domestic air traffic, which has been on a consistent rise since 2010, witnessed a 43.3 percent increment last year, after moving up from 540,000 passengers in 2012.
The Ghana Airport Company Limited (GACL), which oversees the operations of the various airports, attributed the phenomenon to increased patronage in all routes nationwide.
The Managing Director of Starbow, Mr James Eric Antwi, explained that the increment was mainly as a result of the entry of new airlines into the market, which brought in its wake a reduction in fares and general improvement in services to air passengers.
The increment was also due to people’s preference to air transport, which has taken dominance over road transport; the Starbow MD added.
Mr Antwi, whose company is currently leading the market, mentioned limited space for check-in formalities at the domestic wing of the Kumasi Airport and the Kotoka international Airport (KIA) and unstable internet supply as some of the challenges that the increment had occasioned.
“Generally, more people are turning to air transport because of the coming onboard of many airlines and the reduction in fares. The challenge, however, is the infrastructure. We just hope they will work on it as promised,” he said.
In the early days of Ghana’s domestic air transport, it was only Antrak Air, owned by business mogul, Alhaji Asoma Banda, and the CityLink that existed.
The routes at the time were also limited to only Kumasi and Accra as flights to Tamale and Takoradi were least patronised.
These, however, changed around 2010 when more airlines were licensed by the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) to operate domestic air services to the other regions.
That saw the coming onboard of the likes of Fly540, which has halted its services temporarily, Starbow and African World Airlines (AWA), among others.
These new entrants slashed their fares in an attempt to increase patronage which could also translate into bigger market share in the competitive industry.
The discovery of oil and gas in commercial quantities in the Western Region and the subsequent exploration in late 2010 also helped to open that route. The Sunyani route, which is still in its discovery state, is also picking up by way of patronage.
All these contributed to the uptick in domestic air patronage.
Going forward, the GACL said it was optimistic the growth in the domestic air traffic would continue in the coming years.
That, according to the Starbow Managing Director, required additional investment in infrastructure to be able to contain the expected growth.
“On Mondays for instance, people mostly crowd at the check-in section at the Kumasi Airport and the domestic section at KIA, and that is not too good,” Mr Antwi said.