Today’s Daily Graphic reports that Ghanaian authorities are actively encouraging domestic carriers to begin regional operations:
The move [for domestic airlines to ply regional routes], which is in support of the concept to make Ghana the aviation hub of West Africa, will offer transit passengers from some of the sahelian regions such as Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, easier connections to European, American and South East Asian destinations.
Developing sub regional routes is expected to be a major boost for major international airlines such as British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Delta Airlines, Emirates, South African Airlines and Turkish Airlines, which have direct non-stop flights from Ghana.
Air Commodore Kwame Mamphey, the boss of Ghana’s Civil Aviation Authority, tells the Graphic that ‘most’ domestic carriers have been granted approval to go regional, with announcements coming in ‘a month or two’.
Oddly, nobody directly refers to Stelios Haji-Ioannou’s Fastjet project, expected to dramatically accelerate the regional market from an Accra base later this year. While it isn’t technically a domestic carrier, it emerges from the deal between Rubicon and Lonrho Aviation, through which Rubicon acquired Ghana-registered Fly540 Ghana (plus another domestic Fly540 in Angola, and a well-established regional one in Kenya) as a platform for the Stelios venture.
After an initial spell flying side-by-side – Fly540 Ghana on domestic routes, Fastjet on new regional ones - the two will become one. So assuming all goes well, Fastjet looks like becoming a major factor in Ghana’s aviation hub ambitions, using a domestic airline as a semi-springboard.
Of the other carriers based here, only Starbow has yet set out any network expansion plans: it is preparing to run international routes into Abidjan (Cote d’Ivoire) and Cotonou (Benin) from July, routes that may put it in direct competition with Fastjet.
Interestingly, neither of those services are quite the ‘sahelian regions’ Commodore Mamphey refers to above. A Centre for Aviation analysis reckons Fastjet will “steer clear of countries such as Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali” for security reasons, which means there is potential for rivals to fill the gaps in its network.
Those places will need tapping if Ghana wants to grab a comprehensive piece of the region’s intercontinental transit traffic. That could be the game plan for Antrak and City Link, Ghana’s only other scheduled passenger airlines – presumably, as the GCCA says, we will hear from them soon.
Four new Ghanaian airlines were granted licenses in 2011, but only one (Starbow) has started flying.