Gov’t To Renegotiate Fifth Freedom Rights…as National Airline Looms

Government is to renegotiate existing Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights as it firms up plans to establish a new national airline to serve the West African market.

Large European, American and Gulf carriers, by virtue of the Fifth Freedom, are able to operate flights directly from their respective bases into Accra and then fly into a neighbouring West Africa country before flying back to their bases via Accra.

The exercise of Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights on the continent has led to increased intra-Africa city pairing and passenger traffic in the West Africa sub-region.

South African Airways (SAA), Emirates, and Moroccan national carrier-Royal Air Maroc, all have fifth freedom traffic rights that allow them to fly from their home bases to Accra and then service other destinations in the sub-region from Accra.

However, the imminent establishment of a new flag carrier has brought into view the freedom exercised by these foreign carriers in the sub-region.

Aviation Minister, Cecilia Abena Dapaah, says her ministry will review existing Fifth Freedom Rights when they expire to ensure that the country reaps the reward of the growing sub-regional aviation sector.

“The Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights are for a specified period. We will renegotiate and get the best for Ghana,” Ms. Dapaah told the B&FT on the sidelines of a visit to the Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL) to familiarize herself with the company and inspect on-going works at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA).

UN Population Division’s data show that Africa’s population is expected to reach 1.5billion by 2030, an increase of about 50 percent from the 2012 population of one billion.

West Africa, with a population of about 350 million people presently, is expected to grow. This is expected to lead to increased economic activity within the region spurring demand for air travel. Realising the potential, West African countries are bracing for a bountiful harvest in the airline industry.

“That is the reason we want to establish our airline to mop up from the West Coast and feed international airlines that fly into Accra,” she said.

Cote D’Ivoire has re-established a new national airline while Nigeria and Ghana are eager to get their flag carriers in the air.

The Aviation Ministry has indicated that investors have submitted proposals to partner government in establishing the new national airline on a Public Private Partnership basis.

For decades, Ghana Airways was the national airline with the 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, and in June 2005 the airline was liquidated. Government with the support of private investors then established Ghana International Airlines (GIA).

The airline faced difficulties and eventually suspended its operations in May 2010. Some loose ends in the liquidation process are still being tightened.

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