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General News of Saturday, 8 March 2008


Opinion: The Great African Tourist Scam Of 2008

... GIA Knew They Weren’t Returning To Barbados!
... GIA Has ONE Leased Airplane…
... And It Was Not Available On February 15, 2008!

Ladies and gentlemen, there is an excellent argument to be made that when Ghana International Airlines flew 149 charter passengers from Africa to Barbados on February 1, 2008 - both the airline and the charter company already knew the airline probably wouldn’t be returning to Barbados on February 15th.

It turns out that an aircraft exchange was to take place - and did take place - during the time when Ghana International Airlines was to pick up passengers in Barbados. (Read on for the details.)

And here we are over five weeks later and still no aircraft in sight.

Let’s review all the pieces of this puzzle, and then you can make up your mind as to whether or not you agree that it should have been no surprise when Ghana International Airlines didn’t show up to take those 149 passengers back to Africa.

There are five areas we can think of that should have warned authorities in advance that this specific African flight was going to be a disaster…

    1/ Poor financial condition of Ghana International Airways (GIA)

    2/ GIA’s scheduling & aircraft limitations and their poor service record.

    3/ Incomplete paperwork filed by GIA prior to the flight.

    4/ Lack of visa requirements for visitors from Nigeria and Ghana.

    5/ Demographics and luggage load of the passengers.
I’ll cover points one and two now, and then get to the others later after our staff meeting this afternoon.
    1/ Poor financial condition of Ghana International Airways (GIA)

    2/ GIA’s scheduling & aircraft limitations and their poor service record.
Ghana International Airlines has been having a rough time of it lately. They are down to a single leased aircraft, and, as any pilot can tell you - no airline can operate with just one aircraft. There is no time for maintenance and when something breaks (a normal happening with any machine) it totally destroys the flight schedule. Sure, you can always lease a back-up aircraft for a week or so… if you can find one available exactly when and where you need it.

Until the replacement aircraft shows up though, passengers who are stranded in some far-off place like (for instance) Barbados, have to, well, remain stranded. Such is the business of running a one-airplane “International Airlines”.

But it is not like the folks at GIA don’t have experience running a dying airline. The company was largely reincarnated from the ashes of their failed predecessor: “Ghana Airways”. During the last gasps of Ghana Airways in late 2004 and early 2005, all but one of their aircraft were seized by creditors.

So how did Ghana Airways operate with only one aircraft back in 2005? Apparently not very well. As Dr. Richard Anane put it on GhanaWeb…

“With only one DC10 in service, delays and cancellation of flights took its toll on the entire Airline and it became common sight to find passengers demonstrating at the airport or vandalising Ghana Airways property.”

Ghana - Last Stop For Airliners Before The Seats Are Ripped Out To Haul Freight

According to all the research I’ve managed Ghana International Airlines - GIA currently operates a single 14-year-old Boeing 757-256 (Boeing serial number 26245) registration TF-FIS - on lease from Icelandair since February 20, 2008.

The aircraft that brought the Africans to Barbados on February, 1, 2008 was an eight-year-old Boeing 757-256 registered TF-FIY (Boeing serial number 29312). This was leased from Icelandair in August of 2007 and formally handed back about February 18, 2008 in exchange for the much older TF-FIS that is the current aircraft.

We are told that Ghana International Airlines had no aircraft available for almost a week in February - when they were supposed to return to Barbados.

In the last few years the airline has gone through a few aircraft - to the point where they don’t even bother to paint them in the airline colours anymore. All those pretty photos in the promotional materials and on the Ghana International Airlines website are of two aircraft that are long gone.

Now, GIA simply tapes over the “IcelandAir” name on the tail and throws the word “Ghana” on the fuselage. It isn’t pretty, but it is all an airline on its last legs can manage. The top photo (link) is how TF-FIY appeared in September, 2007 and the bottom photo is how the same aircraft appeared on February 1, 2008 when it was at Grantley Adams International Airport in Bridgetown, Barbados. (Classy tape job on the tail, don’t you think?)

Up until November 1, 2007, GIA leased a seven-year-old Boeing 757-256 from Iceland Air (Registration TF-FIA). Prior to TF-FIA, Ghana International Airlines was flying a 20-year-old clapped out 757-225F (Boeing serial number 22210) with US registration N930RD. (That’s it in the GIA colours at the top of the article) The aircraft went back to Ryan International in April, 2006 and has since been converted to a freighter and sold to Varig Logistica out of Brazil. According to an industry source, at least one of GIA’s leased aircraft was temporarily seized in early 2007 for payment problems.

GIA also used to lease an Icelandair Boeing 767-366ER - Boeing serial number 24541 (TF-LLA), but this was given up around September, 2007 when, to put it kindly… “Passenger growth did not meet expectations.”

Ghana International Airlines: A Flight Experience You Will Remember!

If you want to fly on Ghana International Airlines, you might want to read some opinions from previous victims, ah… passengers. If you need some humour in your life, trying reading these passenger reports.

Which is all to say that Barbados was not dealing with a world-class operation when it permitted Ghana International Airlines to carry passengers into Bridgetown.

Next In This Article: The Economics Of Flying Empty Aircraft From Africa To Barbados - and - Alarm Bells At Grantley Adams: “As Strange A Planeload Of People As I’ve Ever Seen”

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