It is apparent that the problems facing our debt-ridden national carrier (Ghana Airways) is due to decades of cumulative management failures and flawed government policies. Years of political interference and management incompetence have led to the airline's financial turmoil. Nonetheless, its recent ban by the United States (US) Department of Transportation is certainly "the last straw to break the camels' back."
While this action has prompted the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government to take responsibility of the airline's 162 million dollars debt, it does not signify an end to the latter's ailing business and financial troubles. The inability of past and present governments and particularly, the management of Ghana Airways to effectively address the problems facing the airline seem to confirm some critics' view that Africans are not capable of managing our own affairs successfully without external intervention.
There is no question that the recent efforts by the government to negotiation a deal with some private companies such as the Ghana International Airlines (GIA) to form partnerships with Ghana Airways are steps in the right direction. What raises doubts about the viability of such attempts to salvage Ghana Airways from its deteriorating condition is that, like the present GIA talks, other companies have made similar attempts to take over the national carrier and save it from total collapse, but none succeeded. Ghana Airways badly needs to undergo drastic administrative and operational reforms.
Regardless of who is to blame for the airline's woes, we should look to the future and act positively by sharing our views on how best to revitalize our troubling airline. I believe the following policies could help revamp the fortunes of our ailing airline and put it on the right track, with or without external intervention. The airline should design a comprehensive and sustainable strategic management plan aimed at reducing cost and increasing profitability based on the following recommendations: 1. Partnerships * 8There is a need for strategic alliance(s) or public-private sector partnership to promote accountability and efficiency in the airline's operations and reduce the financial strain on public funds.
2. Economic Logic - Cost Reduction * The management of the airline could be hired on contract basis and given measurable performance targets. Failure to meet the set targets could result in the termination or non-renewal of their contracts.
* Benefits and incentives (such as the free and/or subsidized ticket benefit which is more often abused by some workers) should be reduced at all levels - junior and senior staff or abolished. Benefits should be tied to the airline's profitability to encourage workers to work hard to earn more benefit. It is very absurd that a public corporation such as Ghana Airways that is sinking deeply into debt should continue to disburse generous incentives/benefits to its staff.
* There is also a need for more checks and balances and counter-checks in the airline's operations to promote transparency and reduce corruption.
* The airline should suspend indefinitely the purchase of new aircraft. Instead of buying over 30 year old aircrafts, the airline could lease modern aircrafts on short and long term basis, depending on its business needs at any given time.
* Except for essential positions, the airline should downsize where necessary and freeze hiring in all departments indefinitely. * The airline should also consider outsourcing some of its specialized operations and service areas where it lacks expertise to avoid unnecessary cost.
3. Market Segments and Routes * The airline should concentrate on profitable market segments and routes.
* It could also adopt a short-haul and low-fare flights to be more competitive.
* The airline should carefully analyze their competitors' strategies to be able to provide similar or better services to help it salvage its soiled image.
4. Innovations to Improve Quality of Service . To bring efficiency into the airline's day to day operations, the management could adopt an open-door policy by involving the workers in the new planning process. This way, the workers will take responsibility for the reform and commit to its successful implementation.
Management could also solicit views from its customers on what the airline could do to enhance its service to them.
. Another important area to consider is staff training programmes for workers at all levels to enable them enhance their output and provide quality service. This way, workers will be kept abreast with the ever-changing airline industry and meet the needs of the airline and its customers.
. There is a need for technological innovations in all aspects of the airline's operations to streamline its accounting processes, especially in ticket sales and luggage levies. This will help detect problems before audits, and avoid accumulation of loses.
. Ghana Airways as a public entity should have a "whistle blower" clause in its legal framework that protects and rewards honest staff who report wrongdoing by any junior or senior staff member.
5. Expansion of Operations . The airline should only embark on expansion when it's practically and economically feasible.
I believe implementing these policies could help rid Ghana Airways of the extreme incompetence, acute corruption and gross irresponsibility that have permeated all levels of its operations. Ghana Airways belongs to all of us and it's about time we put our national interest above all others. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.