Government is seeking Qatar-based carrier Qatar Airways as main partner for the proposed new national carrier, official sources say.
The decision to sound out government’s interest in having Qatar Airways as a partner is deeply rooted in the airline’s financial capacity, network, and technical expertise — needed to build a viable carrier for the country after two failed attempts.
However, Chief Director of the Ministry of Transport, Twumasi Ankrah-Selby, in an interview with B&FT newspaper said: “Just about two weeks ago we had a stakeholder’s forum where the full feasibility report was presented by the consultants, PwC.
“Now the way forward is to prepare the Request for Proposals (RFP), but they have started some market sounding; meaning that they have already started contacting some airlines and talking.”
The final prefeasibility report was largely accepted by stakeholders as more realistic and attainable than the previous report, which suggested the new carrier, if established, would make profit in about two years.
The final report indicates that the new national carrier will operate for about five years before realising return on investment — a fair projection in the industry for a start-up airline in this region.
The RFP is to be published by the end of the year, with a proposed date of June 2016 for commencement of operations.
“It is our expectation that by the time they finish preparing the RFP we will have some of these airlines coming in. The only problem is that government doesn’t want to put in any money now, so we want an entity that can bring in the money and establish a carrier.” he said.
Qatar Airways flies to over 150 destinations worldwide in Africa, Central Asia, Europe, Far East, South Asia, Middle East, North America, South America and Oceania from its base in Qatar.
It has cargo operations in various African countries including Ghana and Nigeria.
Government’s latest attempt to establish a sustainable and profitable airline is the third since independence, following the demise of the erstwhile Ghana Airways and Ghana International Airlines.
Ghana Airways was founded in 1958, and for decades was the national airline with Kotoka International Airport (KIA) as its hub. However, the airline, ridden with debt, ceased operations in 2004. Attempts were made to revive its fortunes, but to no avail: in June 2005 it was finally liquidated.
With the support of private investors, Ghana International Airlines (GIA) was established in 2004 after Ghana Airlines’ demise. The airline faced difficulties and eventually suspended its operations in May 2010.
In the proposed new arrangement, Ghana’s government is seeking a carried interest and a partner with experience in running an international carrier.
Given the capacity of local airlines, they may not be able to compete to be the major partner in the new enterprise. “We are not taking out the local operators, but the question is ‘do you have the muscle and the network?’” Mr. Selby said.
Government is nonetheless optimistic about the success of a new national carrier, given the growing importance and ability of the country to cater for transit passengers and tourists from the sub-region, Europe and the Americas.