PassionAir suspends flights to Ho over fuel price hikes, high exchange rates

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Local airline operator, PassionAir, has suspended flights to the Volta Regional capital, Ho.

According to the airline, although the new Ho route did not enjoy much patronage, the decision to suspend flights to that part of the country is mainly due to the increase in fuel prices.

The airline, which started scheduled domestic operations in Ghana in August 2018, from its Accra hub to Kumasi, Takoradi, Tamale, and later Wa, began flying to Ho only four months ago.

In an interview with Citi News, Sales and Marketing Manager with PassionAir, Samuel Razak Tachie, said though the suspension is indefinite, it will resume flights to Ho as soon as fuel prices stabilize.

“Usually, when you start a route like this, it takes time to build up with the number of passengers. But in the course of time with the hikes in fuel prices and the exchange rate, we had some issues that were very challenging for us. So that is what has led to this suspension.”

“This is the first time the Ho route has not been operated on commercially, but the patronage has been very low and unfortunately the fuel prices and the depreciation of the cedi did not help matters. But our suspension of the Ho route is not permanent. It has been suspended for now and the company is assessing the situation to ascertain the way forward.”

The flights were scheduled for weekends to Ho at a GH¢150 fare which saw some traffic, but that declined over time.

Speaking to aviation specialist, Sean Mendis, he noted that the suspension of PassionAir’s flights to Ho “was unfortunately inevitable in the current conditions.”

He added that “developing a new route like that [Accra-Ho] requires proper scheduling around a hub bank, something that PassionAir simply doesn’t have the distribution capability to implement at this stage”.

Sean Mendis further stated that “if there was a way to make the route work under present conditions, Africa World Airline (AWA) would have already started it.”

According to Mendis, “the problem in Ghana right now is that the existing markets are growing so fast that you can’t really afford to waste an aircraft developing a loss-making route to Ho for a few years when the opportunity exists to make money in Tamale or Takoradi instead.”

Ho is the capital city of the Ho Municipal District and the Volta Region of Ghana. The city lies between Mount Adaklu and Mount Galenukui or Togo Atakora Range, and is home to the Volta Regional Museum, a cathedral, and a prison.

Ho is one of the twelve districts in the Volta Region. It has a population of 61,099 and is the administrative and commercial capital of the Volta Region. It is also the administrative and economic hub of the Volta Region. The recent population growth and urban dependency on the already inadequate infrastructure in Ho has far exceeded acceptable standards.

Although some infrastructure provision has been made, these constitute an insignificant proportion of infrastructure needs of the municipality. The city is limited by the poor institutional set-up and regulatory framework for effective municipal management.

Ho Airport is an airport development project supported by Ghana’s Government. Serving the city of Ho in south-east Ghana, the project has been designated a 3000-acre site which features an existing airstrip. The airport was previously scheduled to open in Mar-2017

Sep-2014. President John Dramani Mahama confirmed that the Ghanaian Government plans to build a new airport at Ho.

Apr-2015. Ghana’s Volta Regional Minister Helen Adjoa Ntoso formally presented the site plan for the new Ho Airport to airport contractor Falcom Crest Investment. Site clearing is due to commence on 04-Apr-2015.

Sep-2015. Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL) commenced work on the new USD25 million Ho Airport. The airport will feature a single 1600m runway, terminal with VVIP lounge and public transport terminal. The development of a hotel and shopping precinct will accompany the construction of the new airport. A 9km ring road will also be constructed.

Mar-2016. Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL) MD Charles Asare reported the airport operator has raised USD150 million in capital for the development of Sunyani and Wa regional airports and the construction of a new airport at Ho.

May-2016. Ghana’s Ho region is expected to have its new regional airport complete by 1Q2017. Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL) MD Charles Asare said: “Ho is very far advanced, the runway is about 80 per cent complete. The terminal building has been started. We have enough land to develop ancillary services at the Ho Airport.” The airport secured USD150 million in funding.

Sep-2016. Ghana’s Transport Minister Fifi Kwetey said the runway of Ho Airport will be complete by Nov-2016.

Oct-2016. Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama stated he expects Ho Airport to be ready and receive its inaugural service in Nov-2016. Mr Mahama acknowledged the terminal will not be completely finished, and works will conclude after services begin. 

Dec-2016. Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama conducted a groundbreaking ceremony to commence phase two of construction for Ho Airport. Amandi Holding Limited is completing phase two of construction and is expected to be completed by Mar-2017. Ho Airport received a runway 1900m long and 30m wide, aprons, one ATC tower, new passenger terminal building with capacity to handle 150,000 passengers p/a, baggage handling systems, boarding gates and CCTV in the first phase of construction. The second phase of construction includes a commercial area for retail outlets, underground fire safety area, water storage tank, and security fence

May-2017. Ghana’s Minister for Aviation Cecelia Abena Dapaah suggested Ho Airport would serve as a maintenance centre for aircraft and a training centre for pilots and airline crew once completed

Oct-2017. Ghana’s Minister of Aviation Cecilia Dapaah stated the construction of Ho Airport is now scheduled to finish by Mar-2018, with the project approximately 88% complete. 

Apr-2018. Ghana’s Minister for Aviation Cecilia Abena Dapaah stated a marketing plan to promote the new Ho Airport needs to be developed, before its commissioning by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. The new airport is expected to open up business in the Volta region to investors. The airport features a 1900m runway, a terminal capable of accommodating 1150 passengers at a time, a bus terminal and a ATC tower.

Ho Airport (IATA: HZO, ICAO: DGAH) is a regional airport built to serve Ho in the Volta Region of Ghana. Construction was completed in 2017, although the airport was not opened to commercial traffic until 2021.

In April 2021, Africa World Airline (AWA) commissioned its first commercial flight, with its Embraer 145 to the Ho Airport, landing at exactly 1419 hours with Captain Kwesi Oteng, Chief Operations Officer of the Airline being in charge.

His co-pilot was Togbe Afede, Agbogbomefia of Asogli State and the Chief Executive Officer of the AWA, which carried some Executive Officers of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Ghana Airports Company Limited and the media.

The crew were met at the tarmac by Dr Archibald Yao Lesta, Volta Regional Minister, with a retinue of Chiefs and Queens from the Asogli State, after which a libation was heralded by Ametsitsi Debra, to appease the gods for safe landing and business flourishing.

Togbe Afede said today had become a memorable occasion and a dream come to fruition for him.

He praised the present and previous governments for the huge investments made in building the facility and attempts to operationalise it, saying posterity would come to terms for its existence.

He enumerated the advantages of airlines, saying it was more economical, efficient and convenient and asked the people to pack their vehicles and patronise flights to Accra and other cities and use Uber services to commute in those cities at a more affordable cost and safety.

“We need to make this airport viable and enhance its viability,” Togbe Afede said.

He announced plans to make the airport a training hub for pilots, flight engineers, as well as for maintenance purposes with support from the government and the GCAL, GCAA.

Togbe Afede said the “ball is now in the court of the people of the Region to demonstrate a zeal to keep the dream alive by patronising the product to boost its sustainability.”

Mr Yaw Kwakwa, the Managing Director of the GACL, commended AWA for finding business means in the Ho route and availing itself for full-fledged operations and delivering on its pledges.