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14.03.2005 Business & Finance

GIA to fly - ADM

By Accra Daily Mail

…Summer schedules to be published …Feet dragging could however cost One of the NPP Administration's much-awaited actions - getting the new national carrier flying - after much dotting and crossing of the appropriate business documents is taxiing slowly for take off.

ADM has received information from airline industry sources that "anytime from now the summer schedules would be published". That is welcome news to the Ghanaian flying public, which has these past four years been buffeted from one "mushroom" airline to the other.

Indeed last year, disappointed travelers even staged a demonstration in front of President Kufuor's private residence. This year's poor Hajj organization has also been blamed in part to the absence of a national carrier.

The absence of the national carrier from the skies has also seen the muscling in of more powerful European airlines where Ghana Airways used to occupy.

Public opinion is that the "government is taking too long in getting the new airline going. Said a source to ADM, "some people in the system are dragging their feet". Without elaborating, the source said, "between the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Finance, something is not jelling."

At the time of writing last weekend, the government was still expected to sign the term sheet, which would confirm that the Government of Ghana, Ghanaian institutions and the Ghanaian public would own at least 51% of the airline.

Ghana International Airlines, the new airline has however already received the "national carrier" designation and ICAO designator code and the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) recently awarded the airline Air Carrier License (ACL") number 197 valid for domestic, regional and inter-continental routes.

The award of the ACL allows GIA to commence scheduled international passenger and cargo operations. All these things make it all the more difficult to understand why any one would drag their feet.

Last month GIA-USA took the crucial step of depositing with Standard Chartered in Accra of an amount of U$ 2.1 million for the initial stages of the operations.

The government has also taken an equally far-reaching decision by designating GIA as the "national carrier" of Ghana, making GIA the beneficiary of Ghana's routes under bilateral air service agreements with 47 countries around the world.

GIA has also received recognition from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) based in Montreal, which has allocated the airline a 3-letter designator code of GHB.

What is left now is for the feet dragging to be speeded up into a run so that GIA would conclude the process of acquiring Boeing 767-300ER and Boeing MD-90 aircraft with a goal of commencing flight operations during the summer of 2005.

J. Ralph Atkin, Chief Executive Officer of GIA is reported as saying that "GIA is moving full speed ahead with our plans to have planes flying during the summer season…

There is great enthusiasm for this project from all quarters and we are excited about creating an airline that the people of Ghana can proudly call their national carrier."

GIA is the new national carrier of Ghana and is a Ghanaian company formed in partnership between the Government (70%) and a consortium of international private investors (30%). GIA plans to develop Accra as the "Gateway to Africa", providing connections from Europe and North America to Accra and onward within Africa.

The Chief Executive Officer of GIA is J. Ralph Atkin, the founder of SkyWest airlines of the United States. SkyWest is the world's largest independent regional carrier, with revenues in 2004 reaching $1.2 billion and profits of $82 million.

Since the NPP Administration decided to "ring fence" the debts of the old Ghana Airways in 2004, the old airline has ground to a halt.

The workers of Ghana Airways have remained in limbo ever since, most of whom are waiting for the new national carrier to take off for them to know whether they have a future in the aviation industry.

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