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08.08.2004 General News

Ghana: Chaos at Kotoka Airport

By BBC, Focus on Africa
Ghana: Chaos at Kotoka Airport

DAVID AMANOR: "There was chaos at Ghana's Kotoka International Airport in the capital Accra this morning when hundreds of angry passengers stormed into the offices of Ghana Airways Off.. Ghana Airways, claiming to have taken some airline officials hostage. The angry passengers were demanding action and compensation from the airline after delays of 48 hours in their flights to Europe. These were some of the voices heard at the airport today..."

MALE VOICE: "Everybody needs money, so everybody needs nothing less than one hundred pounds, because I bought pound ticket, I didn't buy this in cedi tickets, and they don't have to treat us like that."

FEMALE VOICE: "The police are trying to arrest me! Maa Adwoa(?) Ablo. To arrest me! They are joking. Let them fight."

DAVID AMANOR: "Angry Ghana Airways passengers at Kotoko International Airport today. Well the airline has not been faring well lately. Just ten days ago their planes were banned from flying to the United States pending an investigation into claims that unsafe planes were being flown. But today in Accra it appears safety might be one of the reasons for the delay. Journalist Akwesi Sarpong was at the airport. On a line to Accra, I first asked him what the passengers had got up to."

AKWESI SARPONG: "Well they moved into the operations office of Ghana Airways at the Kotoka International Airport demanding immediately word on when next they could get a flight to take them to Dusseldorf or to London. Basically there were two sets of passengers, ah, one which was supposed to have left on Friday for Dusseldorf and the second set of passengers which was supposed to have left this morning for London, and there was no word, the flights have been cancelled, ah, since Friday they have no word as to when they were leaving and they simply will not listen to any other explanations, they wanted to know when they were leaving because they felt they had been delayed, ah, way behind time. The explanation from the airline is that the engine of the plane that was supposed to take the passengers on Friday, ah, went down, so they were trying to lease an aircraft to airlift those passengers who have been stranded since Friday, but, ah, the information that came from the airline is that they wired money to the airline in London that was supposed to lease them an aircraft. The company in London was insisting they wanted CASH, and that couldn't be done over this weekend and so until Monday..."

DAVID AMANOR: "But they had, ah, they... the airline held an emergency meeting today, we understand?"

AKWESI SARPONG: "Yes. In the heat of the crisis, the chief executive of the airline, the board chairman, inspector general of police, and, ah, the president have been holding a crisis meeting on the situation that arose this morning. It was pretty much a situation of pandemonium. It took Accra Regional Police Commander and his men to move in to release, ah, three officials including one co-pilot who had been held in the operations office of the national airline at the Kotoka International Airport. The passengers were demanding immediately, ah, before they released them, ah, compensation of a hundred pounds daily since Friday when, ah, they had been holed up in Accra up until when Ghana Airways gets them a flight out of Accra, and then also demanding a proper accomodation, they specifically said they needed five star hotels to be accomodated in, and so until then they will not let them go, but the police came in and, ah, made them release the officials."

DAVID AMANOR: "So the officials have been released. Were any of the passengers arrested?"

AKWESI SARPONG: "Yes. A number of them were picked up. The Greater Accra Regional Police Commander said he was not arresting them, rather he was taking them in, ah, in, because they were, ah, identified as the ringleaders, ah, and they were being taken in just in order, ah, to have tempers, you know, cool down."

DAVID AMANOR: "So how many passengers were actually involved in the fracas?"

AKWESI SARPONG: "At least three hundred passengers, because you have two sets of passengers. Passengers who have been left stranded since Friday and those who were supposed to be leaving Accra today as well."

DAVID AMANOR: "Has calm now returned? Where are the passsengers? Are they going to be on their way to Europe?"

AKWESI SARPONG: "Ah, the airline's marketing manager told a journalist at the airport that the Ghana Airways, ah, is immediately seeing to efforts to ensure that the passengers will be carried to their destinations. It is still not clear, as of now, what arrangements are being made for the passengers, but when I left the airport a great number of them were still there, loitering about, hurling insults and abuse at the airline's managers. The airline's managers trying very hard to, you know, ah, keep a handle on the situation.

DAVID AMANOR: "Journalist Akwesi Sarpong, speaking from Accra..."

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