Harmattan disrupts domestic flight schedules

Business News of Saturday, 10 January 2015

Source: B&FT

Airplane 1

The dry season, otherwise known as the Harmattan, has forced domestic operators to delay, and in some instances cancel, flights from Accra to Kumasi and Tamale due to poor visibility.

The dry season, which is associated with dry winds and poor visibility between the months of November to February, has reduced visibility for air navigation by some 60 percent.

The delay of flights by operators as a result of bad weather has inconvenienced passengers and led to a loss of revenue for airlines.

Statistics from the Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL) indicate that domestic passenger throughput for the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) for the months of November, December and January are relatively high.

This period represents the second-busiest period for the domestic air travel. Passenger throughput for November 2013 was 68,000; 67,000 for December; and 61,000 for January.

April, May and June are the peak months for domestic passenger throughput. This means that more people travel within the months of April, May and June from Accra to the regions which host the four existing domestic airports.

Starbow, Antrak and Africa World Airlines (AWA) have since the onset of Harmattan had to delay their early morning flight from Accra to Kumasi to allow for the weather to clear up before operating flights to and from the two destinations.

“We have our minimums, and when the visibility is below that we don’t fly. Especially with our early morning flights, we have had to delay flights to Kumasi to allow for the weather to clear up a bit,” the Chief Executive Officer of Starbow Eric Antwi told the B&FT.

Africa World Airlines (AWA) has also had to delay early morning flights due to poor visibility to Kumasi. The airline has also cancelled its early morning flight to the Northern Region capital, Tamale. It now operates two flights — one afternoon and evening flight — to Tamale.

Another issue that is also affecting flight operations to Kumasi and Tamale is the yet to be published approach measurements for the Instrument Landing System (ILS) in Kumasi.

A brand-new Instrument Landing System (ILS) for the Kumasi Airport was acquired and installed at a cost of €800,000 from the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority’s (GCAA) internally generated funds. However, the approach measurements are yet to be published by the GCAA for pilots to use in safe landing at the said airport.

The Instrument Landing System (ILS) is an internationally normalised system and accepted by the International Civil AviationOrganisation (ICAO) for navigation of aircraft on the final approach for landing.

Absence of the approach measurements means that operators have had to rely on their own projections for operating flights in order avoid flying to Kumasi and Tamale and be told they cannot land due to poor visibility. “You wouldn’t like to fly to Kumasi and be told you cannot land,” Mr. Antwi said.