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17.08.2004 Feature Article

The Jinx on Ghana Airways

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IF THE present predicament of Ghana Airways happened to be unusual, I am sure we would have been charitable to the national airline. After all, things go wrong from time to time even in the Western world with all their scientific and technological advancement.

In this particular case, charity and understanding towards Ghana Airways would be misplaced and unpardonable.

This is because, over the years, Ghana Airways has proved beyond all reasonable doubt that, if there are two things our airline knows how to do best, it is wasting State funds pumped into it and inconveniencing passengers.

If there is an airline, anywhere in the present world which can beat Ghana Airways in the two departments, that airline is yet to come into existence.

If there should be a competition in the waste of funds and criminal neglect of passengers, Ghana Airways will be such a convincing winner that the losers would come a distant, hard-to-see second.

For all the millions of dollars put into the financial tank of Ghana Airways, all that the airline has to show for it is huge losses in dollars and cedis and pound sterling.

In the latest episode of the tragi-comedy being played by Ghana Airways, passengers have become desperate as they do not know when they can fly out of Ghana or into the country from the United States and elsewhere.

One passenger told his pathetic story of having run out of the special medication for his eye problem. It is my fervent prayer that the drug might be available here and that he still has enough money to buy them.

Passengers talked of being paired in some God-forsaken hotels. In at least one case, a female passenger and a male passenger were asked to pair when they were not married or in any kind of relationship beyond the fact that they were both stranded passengers of Ghana Airways. And stranded passengers were given a few miserable dollars to fend for themselves.

Passengers have had to phone their relations and friends to leave the "arrival" airport and go home since they (the passengers) had not the faintest idea regarding their return home.

If it should be all over, do not be surprised to hear of real cases of people losing their jobs, their places in educational institutions because they failed to register, high-blood pressure newly-acquired or old ones shooting up, nervous wreck and a visit to the psychiatric hospital.

How many of them have had a decent bath or meal? How many of them still have pocket money? How many have had to leave their home towns for Accra only to be told that there were no flights and that Ghana Airways had no idea when a flight would be ready?

Dear reader, if I write with some passion, it is because I have had very shabby treatment at the hands of Ghana Airways.

I have already told my personal story twice before so I do not intend to bore my readers with the details.

Suffice for me to say that Ghana Airways once carried my luggage to Murtala Muhammad International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, and left me stranded at Kotoka International Airport.

At one time, a friend of mine and I had to buy a first class ticket. The plane that took us home to Ghana did not have any first class compartment. Indeed, it was with some difficulty that we managed to secure seats on that small aircraft.

That same friend and I had to spend four days at the Murtala Muhammad International Airport waiting for a Ghana Airways plane. Do not ask me how we fed ourselves, how we slept at the airport (no hotel accommodation) or whether we even had a bath.

When we finally arrived home, we had to inconvenience a mutual friend by billeting ourselves on him for about a week while we made a daily pilgrimage to Kotoka to see if our luggage had arrived.

You see, this time round, our luggage was left behind.

It was pure chaos. Well, by the Grace of God we were finally able to continue our journey to Kumasi.

I have also narrated the story of how a relation in the United States had to struggle frantically before he could secure a flight back to the United States.

Both his job and his place in an educational institution were on the line. He was the lucky one, unlike those who, with confirmed tickets like his case, could not get a flight.

To me one of the Seven Wonders of the modern world is that people are prepared to have faith in Ghana Airways to the extent of using that airline.

Nothing will please me more than the news that the Government of Ghana has decided not to sell Ghana Airways but to give the airline and all its assets free of charge to whoever wants it. Oga, na true talk I de talk, as our Nigerian brothers and sisters might put it. Ghana Airways continues to disgrace itself and defame the country.

Before I am accused of lack of patriotism, let me say this. When the Government announced its intention to divest itself of its holdings in the Ghana Commercial Bank, I was among those who were vehemently opposed to the move. My two articles in THE CHRONICLE prove this.

It was not mere nationalist sentimentality or personal interest even though that is my bank as a customer, I simply did not like the implied message that we could not run our own bank unless we brought in a so-called "strategic investor" who, mark it on the wall, could have ended up bringing nothing into the bank.

Ghana Airways is different.

Of course, it is also a national asset, like the Ghana Commercial Bank. Beyond Almighty God, I will trust my life implicitly and explicitly in the hands of Ghanaian-born pilots for their competence, experience and dedication.

It is quite an experience to have your plane taken into the skies and finally put on the runway by a Ghanaian pilot. It is almost always so smooth.

For someone like me who, I confess, does not like flying, my testimony speaks volumes for my fellow countrymen who sit in the cockpit.

Because of its non-stop flight into the United States and its coverage of the Western African coast route, passengers came to use Ghana Airways. No transit hassles.

But what does Ghana Airways do? Like the base Indian in Shakespeare's play, HAMLET, Ghana Airways throws away this pearl of an arrangement that should have put the airline in the black.

What are the immediate causes of this latest instalment of the usual ineptitude of Ghana Airways? Very much against the regulations of the serious-minded United States Federal Aviation Authority, Ghana Airways tried to use a defective aircraft and an expired licence. Can you believe that?

Over the past week, Mr. Mawuko Afadzinu, the Advertising Manager of Ghana Airways, has had to face the flak as he has tried to extricate his bosses from the messy quagmire they have flown the airline into.

Sometimes, as I watch and listen to Mr. Afadzinu, I wonder whether he is showing genuine concern or displaying oily insincerity about the plight of the stranded passenger.

On Saturday, August 7, this year, Mr. Adi Darko, a member of the Board of Ghana Airways, actually admitted on JOY FM's NEWSFILE programme that some members of Ghana Airways were incompetent.

He also talked of the need to put a proper system in place and also the need to have external assistance. As I listened, I kept asking myself why the Board had not re-trained or even sacked those incompetent members of staff. I asked myself whether putting a new system in place would produce results when incompetent staff would still be there.

It would be like asking me to teach Medicine merely because the particular teaching hospital has all the equipment required.

It is clear that Ghana Airways is jinxed or cursed. But no one should think that God or Satan has a hand in the misfortunes of that airline.

The jinx or spell or curse has been cast on the airline by the Mafias within the organization who make it absolutely impossible for even competent persons to operate the airline profitably.

A senior citizen, Mr. K. B. Asante, has also identified interference and misuse of the airline's facilities by the powers that be.

Whatever be the case, Ghana Airways must be told that it cannot be saved by more money, appeals to Satan to lay off it or prayers to God.

The people there are the problem so they should be part of the solution. This albatross should be killed now.

Raymond Archer
Raymond Archer, © 2004

The author has 27 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: RaymondArcher

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