The management of Africa World Airlines (AWA) has expressed its readiness to partner the government to establish a national carrier.
As the government seeks a strategic partner to operate a national carrier, the Founder of AWA, Togbe Afede XIV, said the airline had been positioned with the help of management’s competence, the technical and financial muscle to play that role.
He said the Ghanaian-registered and privately owned airline presently operated with six embraer E-145 aircrafts and intended to increase its fleet size by acquiring an additional two E-190, a 90-seater aircraft next year.
Addressing the media at a cocktail ceremony on Tuesday, December 12, in Monrovia, Liberia, Togbe Afede said AWA was technically, financially and operationally experienced enough to work with the state in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement to own and operate a national airline.
“As a member of the HNA group of China, which ranks number 171 on the Global Fortune 500 companies in the world,” he said AWA had grown from strength-to-strength to become a regional airline.
“AWA operates flights to four cities in Ghana namely Accra, Kumasi, Tamale and Takoradi, as well as to Lagos and Abuja in Nigeria, and now Monrovia in Liberia. It is expected that the airline will expand its operations to Sierra-Leone and Cote d’Ivoire soon,” he added.
The government in the beginning of the year invited bids from private investors in the aviation sector to help it establish a national carrier under the PPP initiative.
The government has so far received 20 proposals, including one from AWA, as it seeks a strategic partner to operate a national carrier.
The new airline will replace the defunct Ghana International Airline which was solely public but collapsed after years of mismanagement and political interference.
The cocktail also followed a successful AWA maiden flight from Accra to Monrovia, Liberia’s capital.
This makes it the only domestic airline in the country to offer direct flights to Monrovia and two cities in Nigeria - Lagos and Abuja.
The maiden flight took off at 11:30 GMT from the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) in Accra and arrived safely at the Roberts International Airport in Monrovia at about 14:30 GMT.
Upon arrival in Monrovia after the almost two-hour journey, the airline's office in Liberia’s capital held a mini ceremony to welcome all the passengers aboard the aircraft. It was also climaxed with the opening of the AWA office in Monrovia.
Togbe Afede said the presence of AWA in Liberia was an important milestone in the achievement of its goal of connecting West Africa.
“Today is an important milestone in the realisation of our goal to integrate West Africa and Africa as a whole. It is, therefore, a great achievement,” he stated.
He explained that the airline’s main goal was to connect Africa by creating routes structured in a hub-and-spoke model, with KIA as its hub to allow a seamless one-change connection between multiple city pairs in the region.
He observed that AWA was born for the integration of the African continent to help accelerate the economic growth of the continent and its people.
“Integrating Africa is very crucial because this will help facilitate the development of the continent and its people to benefit from its rich potential. We need to open up the continent for its people to do more business and thrive,” he mentioned.
Bilateral air service agreements
The Deputy Minister of Aviation, Mr Kwabena Darko-Mensah, said the flight was to help strengthen the friendship between Ghana and Liberia.
“Although the relationship between the two countries dates back to many years, AWA’s presence in Liberia will further help strengthen the friendship,” he argued.
According to him, the flight was a manifestation of the government’s commitment to the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision, aimed at liberalising air travel within the African continent, as well as creating the enabling regulatory and operational environment for partnerships and businesses to thrive within the sub-region and Africa as a whole.
“This celebration is also in recognition of the relevant sections of the Chicago Convention which, among other things, indulges sovereign countries to sign bilateral air service agreements and multilateral treats with other countries to allow international commercial air services within their territories,” he observed.
He noted that his outfit was also committed to strong administrative and governance structures in the sector to ensure customer satisfaction and ease of doing business with investors and players in the industry. — GB