Accra — Ghana Airways last week added The Gambia to the growing list of African countries in which the airline does business. A two hour forty minute trip from Accra to Banjul, - the Gambian capital, saw the inauguration of the Accra - Banjul - Baltimore flight at Banjul International Airport in Yundum. Hours after the ceremony, GH flight 122 left for Baltimore, Maryland on the first scheduled direct flight linking Gambia and the United States of America.
Speaking at the ceremony, the Gambian Secretary of State for Works, Communications, Information and National Affairs Edward Singhatey said the inaugural flight was the latest in a series of co-operative agreements between Ghana and Gambia in the field of transportation. He said that with the global airline industry increasingly pooling resources and expertise through mergers and tie-ins, the agreement between Ghana Airways and Gambian International Airlines, is a step in the right direction.
The opening of the new route is a result of two agreements signed last July linking the national carriers of the two countries and the civil aviation authorities operating in Ghana and Gambia. On board the Accra Banjul segment of the journey was the Chairperson of the Board of Directors Ghana Airways Mrs. Victoria Addy who revealed that a new route would soon be created to cover New York and Banjul.
She called on the Gambian government to lend its support to the new route by way of lower fuel prices. Giving support to the claim that regional co- operation is a strategy for progress and success, Victoria Addy said that by the tie-in of the two countries in the air transport sector, the ECOWAS spirit of cooperation has been given a boost.
She described the ceremony as "a step forward in a relationship that has been strong and mutually beneficial." An official of the United States Embassy in the Gambia said the new route would further strengthen the bonds of friendship between "the States" and Africa from where a significant portion of American society originated.
Two passengers on the flight made some observations about the new route. For Nigerian Emmanuel Nwude, a real estate agent based in the United States, who flew from Lagos to join the flight, travelling on Ghana Airways for the first time was a learning experience.
He said that the quality of service and the competence of the flight crew were comparable to that of all other airlines that he had flown on. He was however unhappy with the arrangement in Lagos whereby reconfirming of booking had to be done far away from the airport. A Gambian student who spoke to The Independent said that he can now move back to United States with relative ease and added that with time prices may hopefully come down to attract more passengers.
The Accra-Banjul-Accra return service had been on the drawing board since June 2000 when market research indicated a strong potential for the route. It is expected to further service the West African community in the United States. Ghana Airways currently operates in 14 African countries with flights to 11 West African countries. It also has code share agreements with Air Senegal, Ethiopian Airlines, Nigeria Airways and South African Airways.