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Business News of Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Source: B&FT

Local airlines prepare for partnerships

Indigenous airlines are readying themselves to take advantage of opportunities to partner large foreign airlines in codeshare and interline arrangements as they submit to an IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA).

A completion of the audit programme and subsequent inclusion of indigenous carriers in the IATA register of certified airlines will make it possible for the likes of Starbow and Africa World Airlines to offer services to international organisations based in the sub-region who have a strict policy of flying on IATA certified airlines.

Mr. Eric Antwi, the Chief Executive Officer of Starbow, noted that: “When this is through, it will increase our business with other airline service providers who will give us passengers and vice versa”.

About 24 airlines operate within the West African sub-region with a relatively young population of about 300 million. However, though operational efficiency and safety is high among various airlines in Ghana and the sub-region, just two airlines are IATA-certified.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) -- the global trade association for the airline industry with over 250 member-airlines which comprise 84% of total air -- the IOSA programme is an internationally recognised and accepted evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline.

Arik and Asky airlines are the two currently certified IATA airlines listed in the organisation’s register. This has meant that indigenous carriers have, over the years, lost big-ticket corporate accounts to these major airlines operating in the region.

Starbow, in January, underwent the stringent audit process that involves benchmarking of the airlines operation and safety standards against about 996 internationally accepted standards as prescribed by IATA.

Africa World Airlines (AWA), having operated in the country for about two years, has also undergone the audit programme.

The two airlines are expected to be passed and included on the IATA database of certified airlines, if they satisfy the requirements of the auditors before the close of the year.

This will make it possible for them -- Starbow and AWA -- to enter into commercial agreements with foreign carriers like KLM, Lufthansa, BA, Tap Portugal, Emirates and others to handle passengers travelling on itineraries that require multiple airlines: for instance, passengers travelling from Frankfurt in Germany to Kumasi via Accra.

The two airlines are scaling-up their operations in the sub-region with the acquisition of new aircraft. Starbow has also acquired two Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 aircraft to increase its fleet size as it plots regional routes.

AWA is expected to take delivery of two Airbus A319s to complement its existing fleet in view of the expected growth.

IATA data show that the total accident rate for IOSA carriers in 2013 was 2.5 times lower than the rate for non-IOSA operators.

Increasing transit passengers figures show that the prospects existing in the sub-region for Ghanaian carriers going forward are enormous.

Transit passengers increased from 162,000 in 2013 to 178,000 in 2014, representing an increase of some 9.5 percent.