19 December 2011

Ghana: Let's Be Serious About Making Kotoka Airport a True Gateway

Recent developments at Ghana's only international airport, Kotoka, though confirms Ghana as on course to becoming the true gateway to West Africa, also give course for worry.

As the airport becomes the attraction of many international airlines with about eight new entrants into the Ghanaian market - five plying international routes, and three plying domestic routes, the country does not seem to be prepared to cope with the pressures that the increased air traffic has brought to bear on existing airport infrastructure and facilities.

An incident where a pilot had to announce to passengers on board a flight that they will have to sit on the tarmac for forty-five minutes to allow approaching aircrafts to land before their take-off, because Ghana has only one runway for both take-off and landing, was indeed embarrassing. As more airlines make Ghana one of their destinations, such occurrence can be expected more often unless steps are taken to construct an additional runway.

Also embarrassing was an instance where passengers' luggage had to be carried by head porters to the arrival hall because all three baggage conveyors had broken down.

There have been several instances in recent months when arriving flights have held passengers for more than half an hour because the available boarding gantries were in use by other arriving or departing aircrafts.

The congestions at the airport, especially in the evenings as several flights prepare for their scheduled routes make air travel from this end a nightmare. Passengers have to stand for ours to access the check-in desks. The relocation of the pre-departure formalities for some international flights to the domestic terminal without adequate information and instruction to passengers has accounted for several flight delays in recent times.

Clearly very few Ghanaians will be proud of the Kotoka International Airport. And yet, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority appears content with their performance. Its Director General, Air Cdre Kwame Mamphey says the Authority has made great strides. The Minister for Transport, Alhaji Collins Dauda, commissioning a new Doppler Very High Frequency Omni-Range (DVOR) Distance Measuring Equipment (DME), used for air navigation services within the vicinity of the airport, and expected to help pilots to land safely under all weather conditions, told journalists that "With the development of the aviation industry in Ghana since 1918 when the idea of aerial transportation in the Gold Coast was conceived by the then British Colonial administration, it seems to me that this year has seen a lot of significant developments in Ghana Civil Aviation's history, especially relating to technological advances and achievements."

Indeed we appreciate attempts to upgrade the technology currently in use at the airport, to improve upon safety, but paying some attention to passengers' comfort, and the convenience offered by the airport environment cannot, and should not be under-estimated. Making air travel stress-free, by providing facilities that takes out the hassle from one's travels is the surest way to ensure that visitors come back, again and again. We therefore call on the Ministry for Transport and the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority to prioritize the upgrade of the facilities at the airport to cope with the increasing air traffic. Kotoka, our only international airport no doubt deserves a facelift - one that is consistent with the country's avowed commitment to become a major hub in the air transport industry - a gateway to Africa.

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