Moves by Antrak Air to further penetrate the West African market suffered a major setback on Friday when its inaugural flight to Benin was refused permission to land.
The ATR-42 aircraft, with 25 people including journalists, on board, took off from the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) at 9.18 a.m. and was scheduled to land in Cotonou at 10.45 a.m., but about 10 minutes prior to landing, the pilot announced that the Beninois authorities had refused to allow the aircraft to land.
He said with the turn of events, he had no choice but to return to Accra.
Consequently, the aircraft landed back at the KIA before noon.
A visibly shocked and angered Alhaji Asuma Banda, the Chairman of Antrak Air, who was on board the plane, said he had fulfilled all the requirements and had been issued with all the necessary permits to land in that country and wondered why the aircraft was refused landing.
He said he would lodge a protest with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and NEPAD and also take the matter to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Secretariat.
"If governments in the sub-region will not respect the ECOWAS Protocol, then we must withdraw from the organisation," he said.
He said further that he started the process to shuttle between Accra and Cotonou three months ago, adding that he even spoke to the authorities in Benin a few hours before departure.
Alhaji Banda said as of the time the aircraft was returned, officials from the German Embassy in Cotonou and other businessmen had gathered at the airport-awaiting the arrival of the aircraft for the inaugural ceremony.
“This is a wholly-owned Ghanaian company and Ghana belongs to ECOWAS. So why should impediments be put in our way when we want to do business with another ECOWAS country?" he asked angrily.
"The authorities in Benin have even refused to allow us to talk to our agents in Cotonou. This is unacceptable," he added.
Alhaji Banda said if the President of Benin, Mr Yayi Boni, stepped foot in Ghana, he would stage a demonstration to protest the move by the Beninois authorities.
The crew on board the aircraft showed to journalists a document with the inscription '0564 ANAC', which they said was the permit from the Beninois civil aviation authority permitting the aircraft to land.
On arrival at the KIA, Antrak officials contacted the Beninois civil aviation authority who said that the Minister of Transportation in Benin had explained that he had not been informed of the inaugural ceremony on time but Alhaji Banda said that explanation was untenable.
Source: Daily Graphic