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Opinions of Friday, 13 February 2009

Columnist: Appiah, Felix Adu-Gyamfi

Ghana International Airline - Ghana Airways The Value is the same.

Like the old Ghanaian adage saying, ‘if a leopard falls into water, the skin gets wet but the leopard changes not’. Apart from the name change of the above airline, the value of mismanagement, incompetence and corruption remains the same. It is sad that in this era of global economic crises, the management of Ghana International airline (G.I.A) is still behaving similarly to the awful days of Ghana airways.

Having boarded Ghana Airways in September 2003 like a ‘trotro cargo’, I could easily predict that the days of the airline were numbered. Due to the overselling of tickets, there were too many passengers present to board the plane. Consequently, the management ordered the passengers to literally run and board the plane creating a situation of the survival of the fittest. In the end I managed to get on the plane. As I sat in the plane, I felt pitiful for the less youthful passengers such as grannies and parents with young children. The fact that the pride of Ghana Airways had reached such a low point was pathetic. It was therefore unsurprising when I later learnt that the company had gone into liquidation. There are no better reasons than the corruption, mismanagement and poor customer service that pushed our prideful airline into insolvency. Amazingly, the same employees who were responsible for the terrible service of the airline owing to their unprofessional attitude were blaming the devil and evil spirits for their misfortune. In my opinion, the ignorance of the staff at Ghana Airways brought disaster upon themselves for the good book says, ‘curse be on the one who calls good evil and evil good’.

After all the hullabaloo about the better services offered by newly reformed Ghana international airline (G.I.A), I decided to patronize their services for my recent 2008 Christmas holidays. My primary astonishment was the means of purchase of airline tickets. Clearly being surprised is an understatement, giving this technological day and age, one cannot purchase ticket/s online. Moreover, there are no contact details of the airline in the United Kingdom (UK) even though most of their flights come to the UK. Instead tickets are only obtainable through an agent in the U.K with essential enquiries about ticketing directed to their office in Accra Ghana. It is a shame that none of their managers seem to realise the need to pitch an office in the UK, where most of their customers are based. I believe it will not take a chunk of the managements’ fat bonuses to set up either an online payment system or an office here in the UK.

Thank God with all the difficulties, poor customer services and the late departures, the airline manages to record safe flights to and fro its various destinations. Another twisted attitude of this airline is the real mental brouhaha that ensues during times of departure. Before my journey, I bought a return ticket for a direct flight from London to Accra-Ghana. Little did I know that my return journey would involve a transit at Düsseldorf (Germany). I was on the flight number LWG-G0 157 from Ghana to London via Düsseldorf on the 10th of January 2009. What a shear display of incompetence that in this day and age, flight route could be changed on the day of departure and at the check-in desk. Yes I can understand why that will be done for safety reasons but not as a normal practice. I do not have any words to explain the last minute inconvenience created as a result of this route change other than an absolute disrespect for customer care and services. To add salt to injury, no apologies were offered to customers.

Once again and in the plane, the trotro memories of Ghana Airways in September 2003 occurred to me. Again on this occasion, I could foresee the end in sight for Ghana International Airline as the similarities were too glaring. I will be very surprised to see the company in operation in the next two years unless a miracle of change happens. It is a big shame and alarming that customers’ care is trampled upon in our Ghanaian society. The average business person in Ghana cannot simply comprehend that his/her business is running because of the customers he/she has. Without customers, businesses fail to exist. With all the promises of better customer services, G.I.A consistently ignores the professional practise of notifying customers well in advance of any flight changes. I wonder what they did with our contact details taken during boarding. I am yet to find out how much of the managers bonuses will be affected if notices are sent frequently to customers through the various media houses in Ghana. As bad as the former Ghana Airways operated, I am of the view that the new airline (G.I.A) in some cases performs relatively worse.

As if that was not enough, my only luggage numbered G0 129422 did not arrive when I got to London Gatwick Airport. All attempts to trace it through Global Baggage Services (the missing luggage company at the airport) proved futile. The reason was that there is no trace of the bag through the G.I.A system. Also, they cannot be contacted in the UK unless at their Ghanaian office. I have to go through the terrible ordeal of contacting their Ghanaian office almost every day for four weeks. Readers should be aware of how difficult it is to contact G.I.A offices in Ghana, let alone being told that the gentleman in charge is on leave for one month.

Their responses have been stories upon stories, which I do not buy and are inconsistent. Upon countless enquiries, I was told that my luggage had been located and should be delivered to my address in 3 days. However it turned out to be the wrong one as the found luggage had the name of one Linda Hooper in Germany. How on earth could that have been the case after going through all the check-in procedures and personally signing my bag? If not Ghana International Airline then where else is this feasible?

At present I am still waiting for my luggage after departing Ghana on the 10th of January 2009. Should the luggage arrive safely in London, I will have to travel from Manchester to London Gatwick in order to collect my bag amidst unnecessary costs that I will not be reimbursed for. If not Ghana International Airline then where will that happen?

Unless the management takes notice of such complaints and improve their services, I can only predict doom. Some of the workers have to be fired. Especially whoever was in charge of check in on the 10th of January 2009. G.I.A customer care and satisfaction should be the pivot, ‘Do what you say and say what you can do’.

I was happy sitting in an aircraft that I could boast of having a Ghanaian pilot and friends on the flight attendants team. Nevertheless, after such an experience, I believe enough lessons have been learnt and I have decided not to board G.I.A planes again. I sincerely believe that other people might have had worse experience/s than what has been elaborated. To such customers I say, ‘let your voices be heard’.

I can only conclude that the value of the current Ghana International Airline and the former Ghana Airways is the same. If there be any consolation at all, it will be for the former Ghana Airways.

Felix Adu-Gyamfi Appiah Bsc (Hons), Msc, MRICS

31 Kesington Court Bury New Road Salford Manchester M7 4WU