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18.12.2003 Feature Article

Of Airplanes And Luggage

Of Airplanes And Luggage
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Ghana, with roughly 2.5 million of its citizens or 11% of its population living outside its shore, has one of the highest Diaspora percentages. China, for example will need 180 million of its citizens abroad to match Ghana’s percentage. That means Ghanaians make adequate use of their airport. Unfortunately, they do not make an equally adequate use of Ghana Airways, their national carrier.

On any given day, Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines, which are effectively our peers, are consistently picking up Ghanaians at Kotoka International Airport and flying them on routes that Ghana Airways could be flying. While those airlines are busy checking in Ghanaians, the airport’s PA system announces that Ghana Airways flight has been cancelled. At what point does it become utterly embarrassing to us as a people?

It is no secret that Ghana Airways has been on a downturn for way too long. As with any downturn, revenue, and effective management of it constitute the root cause. Observations from some friend who have flown Ghana Airways before may provide some clues as to why our national carrier may not be bringing in as much revenue as it could. One interesting observation was by a passenger who wondered why, with several empty seats, other passengers were told the flight was full.

In the airline industry, there is a high degree of importance to weights. But not to bore lay readers, we may focus on payload. There is the overall load that an airplane carries which include the seats, flight crew, and others. Payload, on the other hand, refers to the load that pays, like passengers and their luggage. For that most international carriers calculate one passenger as accounting for roughly 340 pounds. That is an average of 170 for the passenger’s own weight, 140 for two checked in luggage, and 30 for two carry-on bags.

With that in mind, if an aircraft has a payload of, say, 102,000 pounds, it figures to carry 300 passengers. If that aircraft flies a route that charges an average of $1,000 per passenger, that is $300,000 coming in on a full flight. Depending, however, on the airline’s luggage policy, that plane could maximize its payload without maximizing its revenue.

Supposing one passenger is allowed to check in five additional luggage to his or her own allotted 340 pounds, that one passenger just occupied roughly 680 pounds, or two passengers. If this passenger pays, say, $150 for each additional luggage, that comes to $750 or $250 less than what a second passenger would have brought in.

Of course, Ghana Airways gets even less if the passenger’s excess luggage fee does not make it into the carrier’s coffers. In this scenario, the 680 pounds for two weight adherent passengers have been used up, but one seat is empty. With Ghanaian traders flying to London and New York and bringing in their goods with them, could it be that this scenario features frequently?

Ghana Airways Chief Executive Officer Phillip Owusu is a dynamic individual. He has brought in many ideas that seek to correct the downturn. If he stays relentless with his pursuits, our national carrier will see better days ahead. Ghanaians are truly eager for the opportunity to comfortably patronize their national carrier. The reality, though, is that consistency on the part of Ghana Airways has been so sporadic that serious travelers cannot comfortably factor the carrier into their traveling plans. Some of us cannot wait for the days when most of the long lines of passengers are queuing to check in on Ghana Airways flights. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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