17 July 2017

Ghana: Air France, KLM Court Trade Dispute

There are indications that the ban on 'Ghana Must Go' bags by Air France and KLM presents a potential risk of a trade war between France and the West African Sub-region, Nana Kweku Owusu Sekyere, a security analyst has suggested.

He opined, in an interview with Business Day Ghana, that even though the ban may not have any security implications for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), it will likely affect international relations between the 'big brother' France and the Sub-region.

According to him, the ban may be negligible in terms of its actual effect on business relations particularly as, in international politics, the 'big boys' always win; but ECOWAS can also take a decision on France.

When Air France announced its plan to fly weekly direct flights to Accra from Paris, passengers who ply that route jubilated only to be startled recently by the airline's ban on the use of 'Ghana Must Go' bags on its flights.

The ban comes barely six months after the airline began operations in the country.

Air France, one of the long serving European airlines, was founded in October 1933 and has headquarters in Tremblay-en-France in the northern part of Paris.

Air France serves 36 destinations in France and operates worldwide scheduled passenger and cargo services to 168 destinations in 93 countries.

The airline's operation of the Accra-Paris route has been a welcomed relief for many travelers and the business community, particularly in Ghana and Nigeria, who would normally transit at the Schiphol Airprt in Amsterdam to connect flights to Paris.

More than a month ago, passengers discovered notices at the ticket office of Air France at the Kotoka International Airport announcing a total ban on 'Matted Woven Bag', popularly known in the Nigerian and Ghanaian parlance as 'Ghana Must Go'.

The notices indicated that plastic wrapped 'Matted Woven Bags' were not allowed on AIR FRANCE or KLM Flights. As well, the two airlines are against the use of bags packaged with Cling Film for food.

Passengers from Nigeria in particular are fuming over the airline's decision to ban the bags since many of them use it to transport particularly African food items.

In recent times the matted woven bags have been promoted by some celebrities in the West African Sub-region, giving it international leverage.

Business Day Ghana has further learnt that authorities at the Dubai International Airport have also taken similar decision and explained that the bags could disrupt baggage systems, which they said could lead to delays in delivery of baggage to the aircraft and inconvenience customers.

Meanwhile, Consumer Rights Protection Agency in Ghana has, in a letter dated June 6, 2017, asked the airline to rescind its decision to ban the bags.

The Agency argued in the letter signed by Nana Prempeh Aduhene that the decision to ban the bag was not only insulting but smacked of racism and decimation.

The bag, it said, has become "an African pride... our way of life" for most Africans, particularly Ghanaians and Nigerians as well as West Africans in general.

"It is therefore an insult to our identity as Ghanaians and Africans in general who uses these matted bags, which is by our own make.

"This decision is discriminatory, racist in nature and offends our rights of choice," the agency said in a letter addressed to the country director of the airline.

"It's quiet intriguing why these matted bags are allowed on other similar flights to Europe and around the world but being banned on Sky Team's KLM and Air France flights," the letter stated.

All attempts to get the airlines to respond to some queries raised by aggrieved passengers have proved futile.


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