Although 2021 has not been one of the best years in aviation history, the year compared to 2020 has proven to be a better one in a pandemic era where COVID-19 has taken a hit on the airline business.
Despite the challenges that came with the year, airlines are gradually rebuilding to pre-pandemic levels. In this piece, I present to you the top ten events in Ghana’s aviation industry in 2021.
Ghana vs. British Airways on Airports Switch Saga
The most interesting story in the early part of 2021 was when British Airways’ (BA) plan to switch its Accra operations from Heathrow to Gatwick Airport was made public. The news was met with stiff opposition by the government, holidaymakers and the business community whose main issues were connectivity and inconveniences.
At the time, the Aviation Ministry indicated that BA’s decision was solely unilateral, and it could not agree to the operational reasons, among others cited as the rationale for the switch.
The dramatic part of this whole saga after rejections during meetings and through strongly-worded letters from the government to BA was a threat by the government to force BA to land at the Kumasi Airport which does not receive international flights should they fail to rescind their decision.
After the back and forth, BA finally rescinded its decision to switch from the prestigious Heathrow to Gatwick which should have occurred in October 2021.
Ghana’s National Airline and Operationalization Issues
Following Ghana’s selection of EgyptAir as its strategic partner in 2020 to help in the formation of a new national airline, reports had it that the new airline was going to be operational before the end of 2021. It was believed that EgyptAir was going to make available four Boeing 737-800 aircraft to start the new business but the plans did not materialize.
Just as it has been the case each year since 2015, where timelines are given for the operational date, Ghana’s Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta stated during the presentation of the 2022 Budget and Economic Policy Statement in November 2021 that the new national airline will be operational in 2022.
South African Airways and United Airlines Return to Ghana
South African Airways after suspending its operations in 2020 due to the pandemic and business challenges returned to the skies in September 2021. The airline which is now taking it one step at a time operates between Accra and Johannesburg with a temporary suspension of its Washington DC service via Accra.
On its part, United Airlines in May 2021 returned to Ghana with flights between Accra and Washington DC. The US carrier returned with a three-weekly service after exiting the market in 2012.
At the moment, United is operating daily seasonal (Christmas and New Year) flights between the Kotoka International Airport, Accra and Dulles International Airport, Washington.
World’s Largest Aircraft Visits Ghana
In July 2021, the world largest aircraft, Antonov 225 Mriya made one of its rare landings at the Kotoka International Airport, Accra. The 285,000kg aircraft was on its way from Germany to Namibia to deliver medical supplies but had to make a planned technical stop in Accra, Ghana for a night.
KIA and COVID-19 Testing Issues
After imposing a compulsory $150 COVID-19 test for international arriving passengers at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) in 2020, two of the major challenges of the testing regime were its credibility and the cost.
Following concerns over the high cost of the test at the airport, the Government of Ghana reduced the $150 test to $50 for Ghanaians and ECOWAS citizens.
On credibility issues, there were numerous reports by passengers, especially those who tested positive for the virus at the airport casting doubts about the validity of the tests. At the time, most people did not understand why they were negative from their origin but positive on arrival. After persistent complaints, the managers of the testing facility at the airport assured that all tests are done according to international standards.
US Makes Available $1.2m for MRO Feasibility Studies
Aerojet Aviation Limited secured $1.2 million from the US Trade and Development Agency in July 2021 to undertake feasibility studies on the development of a Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility at the Kotoka International Airport.
A report from the study is expected to be completed by end of 2021 after which possible funding for project commencement will be made available.
Ghana Attains ICAO’s PKD Membership
Ghana was officially recognized as the 79th member of the International Civil Aviation Organization Authority (ICAO) Public Key Directory (PKD) platform after joining in October 2021. The PKD is a central repository that makes the exchange of information required to authenticate e-passports possible between states.
Days after this news came an announcement that the National Identity Card, popularly known as the Ghana card was going to be recognized as an e-passport across over 190 countries by 2022.
Delta Airlines Arrives in Ghana with 3 Wide-body Aircraft
In September 2021, Delta Airlines arrived at the Kotoka International Airport with three wide-body aircraft — Two Boeing 767s and one Airbus A330.
Flight DL214 which operated the A330 was Lagos bound from New York and diverted to Accra due to bad weather to spend a few hours on the ground. Flights DL9907 and DL156 were operated on the 767s. The former was a special flight for passengers who missed their flight due to harsh weather conditions in the US which caused flight cancellations on September 1, 2021. DL156 was a regularly operated flight between Accra and New York.
COVID-19 Vaccination a Requirement for International Travels
Ghana’s health authorities as of December 12, 2021, mandates all international travellers arriving in Ghana who are 18years and above to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The directive is to be observed together with producing a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours before departure from origin, the filling of a health declaration form and an antigen test on arrival. Similarly, passengers departing Ghana are advised to be vaccinated.
Airlines carrying unvaccinated passengers or those without the negative PCR test certificate will be charged $3,500 per passenger.
PassionAir Makes History
Domestic airline, PassionAir made history by operating flights manned by an all-female flight crew in February and March this year. The February 20, 2021 flights were between Accra and Tamale, and Kumasi later on the same day. Also, the flight in March from the check-in counter to dispatch through to the flight deck and cabin were all manned by women to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Again, the airline is the first and only airline to have commenced a commercial flight operation to the Ho Airport years after its completion. It launched a twice-weekly service between Accra and Ho earlier in December.