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18.10.2005 Business & Finance

GIA Takes Off

By Daily Guide
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A Daily Guide Report

RECENT SPECULATIONS that John Addo Kufuor, popularly known as Chief Kufuor, has shares in the newly established Ghana International Airlines (GIA), have been found to be unfounded, and completely erroneous.

The revelation came to light when five major media houses met officials of Ghana International Airlines, last Friday, at the brand- new Silver Tower office, at Airport City- adjoining the Kotoka International Airport. Chief Kufuor, the eldest son of President John Agyekum Kufuor, who was mentioned in the now extinct Hotel Kufuor controversy, and who owns shares in the Airport West Hotel, has no share, whatsoever, in the GIA, according to information gathered by Daily Guide, during the media encounter with management of the airline.

Mr. Sammy Crabbe, vice president in-charge of Public Affairs and Government Relations, denied, categorically that Chief Kufuor has shares in the new airline.

He explained that currently, the GIA, which is replacing the now comatose Ghana Airways, the national carrier, is owned by both the Ghanaian Government, and GIA-USA. The Ghanaian government he stated owns 70 percent, while and GIA-USA, 30 per cent respectively, in the new carrier.

Mr. Sammy Crabbe stated that he has known Chief Kufuor from infancy, and that while he attended Ridge Church School, the President's son schooled at the Christ the King School, both international schools, in Accra, adding that both of them however ended up at Prempeh College for their secondary school education.

“Maybe, once in a while, I will bounce an idea off him, but he does not own a pin in GIA.”

The media proprietors, at the meeting were Mrs. Gina Ama Blay of Daily Guide, Mr.Kweku Baako, Jnr of The Crusading Guide, Nana Kofi Coomson of The Chronicle, Alhaji Haruna Atta of the Accra Daily Mail, Mr. Kofi Nyantakyi of TV3 and a representative from The Daily Graphic.

It will be recalled that mainly, the pro-National Democratic Congress (NDC) newspapers, recently carried wild and unsubstantiated reports, citing the name of the President's son, as owning shares in the new airline, in a manner akin to the Hotel Kufuor saga.

Briefing the media owners, Sammy Crabbe said, the managers of the airline have gone to greats length to lay bare an ambitious plan to refocus the attention of Ghanaian travelers, overseas, to their own home-grown airline. He said the GIA has a potential to change the sub-region, and offer stiff competition to traditional flyers, in the country.

It was disclosed during the meeting that a Boeing 757 aircraft will fly the first batch of lucky passengers, at 10.45pm, on Saturday, October 29 to London's Gatwick Airport.

This maiden flight, by the new airline, which would simply be named GHANA, at an affordable fare of $398, is expected to touch down London in at 11am. The Boeing 757, a leased aircraft, will carry 16 Business Class passengers, who would be entitled to 50 kilos baggage gratis, and 144 Economy Class passengers who would be allowed 40 kilos baggage gratis.

The managers said they will wipe away the perception of delayed flights and no flights, that dogged the out-gone airline.

They stressed that GIA is not the “dead” Ghana Airways, but an airline which will adopt the most modern practices, in the business, such as e-tickets. Showing off the spacious offices, out of which GIA will occupy 6 floors, their assertion was put to test by the Electricity Company of Ghana, when the lights went off, a abruptly.

Although the offices were plunged into darkness, the computers remained in operation, as ticketing procedures continued smoothly.

Explaining how it hopes to capture the highly- competitive market, Mr. Mawuko Afedzinu, one of the few lucky staff from the outgone airline to be retained as marketing manager, said that the airline's focus is to stimulate travel, by giving passengers reason to travel.

The low price of $398, is a beckoner, Mr. Sammy Crabbe said adding that the air stewardesses are a sight to behold, as they go on their maiden catwalk, on October 29.

According to reports GIA-USA has, so far, contributed $2.1 million, as its share of 30 per cent, while Ghana Government, which has 70 per cent, has contributed $4.9 million.

Mr. Crabbe disclosed further that other interested partners are speaking to the two major shareholders, and it is envisaged that eventually government shares will be whittled down to as low as 25 per cent, when the company, is floated on the stock exchange.

Brian Presbury, chief operations officer, who is credited with turning Kenya Airways around, appealed to the airport authorities to remove the old airline from the runway. “It's a constant source of friction, and it's about time the old bird was towed off”, he said.

He revealed that according to modern trends, the Boeing 757 has been leased, which gives the airline flexibility.

With the wet lease, the aircraft, was re-configured to their specification, painted in their own colours, with the seating arrangements giving more leg room to passengers.

It was disclosed that modern airlines with the goal to grow quickly, leased aircraft.

These include the highly successful Jet Blue, Easy Jet, Virgin Express, Virgin Nigeria, Kenya Airways and King Fisher.

Although a wet lease does not exclude the possibility of owing an aircraft in the future, at this time, managers of GIA believe that the decision to lease, is in the best interest of the company.

“Modern airline business is to lease, like renting an office or a warehouse. Because, when you want to expand with more passengers, you move on to lease a bigger aircraft, among others” they assured.

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