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Workers of Ghana Airports Company demonstrate against alleged privatisation plans

Workers of the Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL) have embarked on a demonstration to register their displeasure over government’s alleged plan to privatise the company.

They claim government, through the Aviation Ministry intends to hand over the company to a Turkish investor and they cannot allow that to happen.

At the protest outside the premises of the company from where JoyNews’ Henry Kwasi Badu reports, the workers clad in red attires and arm bands want the plans aborted.

They also invoked curses on those involved in the decision.

This demonstration comes days after the Aviation Minister dismissed reports that the Kotoka International Airport had been sold to a foreign entity.

Urging the public to disregard the reports, sector Minister, Joseph Kofi Adda said government was, however, deliberating with stakeholders including the GACL a proposed Strategic Partnership Arrangement between GACL and TAV-SUMMA Consortium to improve service delivery and expansion of infrastructure at the Airport.

This, he said, was to help achieve the Government’s vision of making Ghana the Aviation Hub within the West African Sub-Region.

General Secretary of the Public Service Workers Union, Trades Union Congress, Bernard Agyei who addressed the workers acknowledged their concerns and the need to agitate.

As representatives of the workers, Mr Adjei said they are aware of the development and will meet government on their behalf.

He indicated that while there is a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to initiate discussions on some proposals to hand over parts of the Airport to a private entity, an agreement has yet to be signed.

“We have been confronted with such a situation so as responsible citizens of this country and a responsible union we are using the structures and all the avenues and resources available to us to deal with this matter.

“There will be an engagement with the union for us to state our position on the matter. What we want to assure you is that we will not sit down and allow anything to be done to the detriment of workers,” Mr Agyei said.

He assured that workers that when the time comes for them to meet government on the issue, their concerns will be raised.

“We know how you have toiled to bring the airport to the status at which it is. We know you doing your possible best under the circumstances you find yourself.

“When we go to the negotiating table, we will advance your position that the airport can be and will be run by Ghanaians,” he added.


Massive Layoff At KQ As It Sends Home 182 Pilots, Cabin Crew

National carrier–Kenya Airways is sending home 182 pilots with more than 400 cabin crew facing job losses, the star has established, raising questions over the future of the carrier.

This, even as the government pushes for the nationalisation of the loss-making airline, which is to be managed under an Aviation Investment Corporation that also brings on board the Kenya Airport Authority.

22 pilots have already been served with redundancy letters. 160 more are on the way out with at least 400 cabin crew also on the exit in a decision that has left the airline's management at crossroads with its workers, the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) and the Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU).

“I regret to advise you of management's decision to terminate your appointment by giving you one month notice with effect from June 24, 2020,” copy of the letters given to the pilots, signed by Chief Human Resources Officer Evelyne Munyoki reads in part.

Upon returning the company properties in their possession, undergoing an exit medical check-up with Kenya Airways clinic and signing all necessary discharges, the employees will be paid final dues.

According to the letter seen by the Star, the exit package includes salary and all applicable allowances up to and including June 24, 2020, a one month's salary in lieu of notice and accrued leave days as at June 24, a move that will see the loss-making company spend millions in the layoff.

“The effects of Covid-19 have adversely affected our operations as an airline which has seen us significantly suspend and reduce our operations,” KQ, as it is known by its international code, says in the letters to pilots dated June 24, and served on June 29.

The notice to relieve workers came barely a month after CEO Allan Kilavuka sought the Labour Ministry's support in suspending the airline's collective bargaining agreement with the unions, in what is seen as a ploy to end employment at minimum possible cost. “In view of the unprecedented impact of Covid-19 to the airline, it has become difficult to meet our obligations which severely affecting the industrial relations in the company,” Kilavuka told Labour CS Simon Chelugui. He says the airline has held a series of engagement meetings with KALPA and KAWU which culminated into signing of Memorandum of Agreement for the month of April 2020. The unions and KQ management, however, failed to reach agreement on operations for the months of May and June.

KQ has grounded almost all its operations save for cargo and government-approved repatriation flights.

As such, its revenues are currently at four per cent on monthly average revenues during normal operations.

“We will therefore not be able to cover salary and associated staff costs as spelt out in the CBAs,” Kilavuka says in the letter to the CS, a communication that notably excluded the unions.

He has termed union demands as “unreasonable”.

The airline has also asked staff who are not among those required during the resumption of services to proceed on unpaid leave.

Group CEO Allan Kilavuka said the directive takes effect from July 6.

“As we prepare for the anticipated resumption of domestic flight operations in Kenya, the projected depressed demand will require that we only keep the resources we will need for these operations,” Kilavuka said in an internal communique.

The move to lay-off pilots and crew now leaves the airline on the brink of costly litigations even as it remains unclear how it will afford to send the pilots home with its balance sheet in the red.

The airline reported a gross loss of 12.98 billion, a 71 per cent further drop compared to Sh7.55 billion loss the previous year.

The firm attributed the loss to an increase in operating costs that grew by 12.4 per cent to Sh129.1 billion compared to Sh114.8 billion in 2018.

This is despite income growing to 128.3 billion from Sh114.1 billion in 2018, raising questions over the costs which are mainly pegged on hefty payment to leases of aircraft that are majority-owned by locals with registered companies abroad.

It was last year reported being spending a whooping Sh14.7 billion annually to service leasing contracts it entered to acquire 20 aircraft.

The poor results saw shareholders incur  Sh2.23 loss per share for the financial year 2019, almost doubling  Sh1.30 loss reported in the previous financial year.

Though management has blamed Covid-19 effects in its latest decisions, the airline has remained in losses for more than four years, with management coming under sharp criticism over the poor-performing national carrier.

It will cost the airline an average Sh30 million to send one senior captain home on full benefits with an estimated Sh5.4 billion required for the overall downsizing.

In March this year, Kenya Airways sent part of its workforce of about 4,000 employees on unpaid leave with those remaining taking pay-cuts of between 35 per cent and 75 per cent. The airline grounded a majority of its 36 aircraft, which includes nine Boeing 787 Dreamliners, 10 Boeing 737 aircraft, and 17 Embraers.

“We started feeling the effect in February after we stopped flying to China, then Italy and the rest followed,” Kilavuka told the Star in a recent interview.

The massive lay-offs come despite Transport CS James Macharia's assurance that the government will support the airline back to profitability and growth. “KQ goes beyond the balance sheet and profit and losses. If you only look at these, you will never have an airline,” Macharia told the Star in a recent interview, “We shall continue supporting KQ.”

Sending hundreds of staff home also raises questions over the future of the airline which was operating on a shortage of pilots before the Covid-19 hit the global aviation industry. It had 440 pilots flying the airline's planes daily to 55 destinations worldwide, 41 of which are in Africa, carrying over four million passengers annually.

It required about 600 pilots to operate optimally, according to KALPA, putting the shortage at around 160 pilots.

The airline is currently on course of being nationalised with the National Aviation Management Bill, 2020 seeking to create an aviation holding company under which the airline's balance sheet will be merged with Kenya Airport Authority.

The firing of staff reflects the opposite of the National Assembly Transport Committee, chaired by Pokot South MP David Pkosing, who last week said there would be no job losses. “There will be more flights, hence more ground handlers, more hotels, more crew and so on. Nobody is targeted to lose jobs in the new structure,” the MP told the Star.

President Uhuru Kenyatta will have a key role in the management of the loss-making carrier in the proposed nationalisation plan.

He will chair a powerful National Civil Aviation Council. The council is part of the proposals to make KQ a parastatal.

Cabinet Secretaries for Transport, Interior, National Treasury as well as the Attorney General, and Kenya Airforce Commander are the proposed members of the council.

Meanwhile, the national carrier is facing a massive talent drain by Qatar Airways which is keen to move its main operations to Rwanda.

It has acquired majority stake at the new Rwanda Airport, with reports indicating the airline is keen to tap Kenyan aviation talent.

By: Martin Mwita



Low Passenger Turnout As Domestic Flight Operations Resume

There was low turnout of passengers Wednesday as scheduled domestic flight operations resumed.

Flight restart was kicked off by Arik Air, which records the first flight from Lagos to Abuja, three months and 14 days after the nation’s air space was closed for scheduled passenger service.

At the average fare of N29,000 for economy class, spokesman of Arik Air, Adebanji Ola, told THISDAY that the load factor was average “and the second flight was even better than the first in terms of passenger turnout.”

The low turnout was felt at the two domestic terminals of the Murtala a Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.

Flights resumed at Murtala Muhammed Airport, (MMA2) and General Aviation Terminal (GAT) domestic terminals amid strict safety protocols.

Airlines that operated include Air Peace, Arik Air, Max Air and Ibom Air on Lagos-Abuja routes with about 50 to 60 percent load factor.

For instance, Arik Air’s 7:15am Lagos-Abuja flight had 78 passengers with a Boeing 737 aircraft which would have flown an average of 150 to 200 passengers despite the social distance requirement.

On its second Lagos-Abuja flight, the airline had about 80 passengers.

Aero Contractors said it would resume flight operations Thursday, July 9.

A visit to the Lagos airport showed passengers were required to wear face masks, observe social distancing, use hand sanitisers and thermometers to check their body temperature.

Passengers said they were impressed with the level of compliance in response to tacking COVID-19 and they hope this compliance is sustained.

Aisha Khalid, one of the passengers on Max Air at the Lagos Airport said that she was very happy with the flight resumption and with the protocols initiated by the airport authority to ensure passengers were protected from contracting COVID-19.

“My flight will take off by 11am but I left the house by 6am just to ensure I get to the airport in time and keep to the rules of being at the airport three hours before take-off.

“I am impressed with what I see at the airport. Everything is working perfectly fine. Social distancing is implemented and the screening is perfect,” Khalid said.

Following the approval that flight operations would begin Wednesday, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) released new procedural guidelines for air travelers and other airport users. The new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is aimed at protecting all stakeholders and preventing further spread of the Covid-19 virus.

In a statement signed by Corporate Affairs Manager, FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, the agency had said, “In the “New Normal”, departing passengers must comply with the following guidelines; All passengers must arrive the airport properly kitted with their face masks on.

“They must also ensure a minimum of one point five meters (1.5m) physical distancing, Aviation Medical/Port Health personnel would screen each passenger and ensure the use of face masks, those travelling with pets must get necessary clearance from Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Services, All passengers’ luggage would be disinfected before entry into the departure halls.

“Passengers are required to wash their hands as often as possible, hand sanitizer would be provided for passengers before entrance, at the waiting halls/lounges and pre boarding gates, All footwear would be disinfected or sanitized by foot mats placed at all entrances to the terminal building, amongst others.”

By: Chinedu Eze

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone’s Director-General of the Civil Aviation Authority (SLCAA) – Moses Tiffa Baio, yesterday held talks with senior officials of the Ministry of Transport and Aviation (MTA) and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) about the necessary safety and public health measures, that must be in place before the reopening of the Freetown International Airport for the resumption of commercial flights.

The SLCAA Director-General said that the aviation industry has had a series of stakeholder engagements with the National COVID-19 Response Centre (NaCOVERC) and MoHS, to review the smooth reopening of the airport, which concluded that there is need to produce an ‘air travel process guide’ to inform passengers intending to travel to Sierra Leone, about the public health measures they will expect at the airport.

“During the meeting with NaCOVERC, we developed a policy brief with recommendations for the attention of the Presidential Taskforce. We have proposed that COVID-19 testing be conducted at the airport, and NaCOVERC has agreed to provide us with a mobile laboratory. The objective is to have a testing system that would be effective, efficient, and resilient to prevent a probable COVID-19 resurgence.

“What MoHS should help us with is to provide training for frontline workers, fumigate the airport, review passenger Health Locator Forms and set up the mobile testing system at the airport,” the DG said.

He encouraged the team to consider the Rwandan model which basically involves PCR testing before arrival at Lungi airport, and a Resistance Temperature Detector (RTD) test would follow upon arrival, with results produced within 24hrs. He said that all other health protocols as directed by WHO would be observed.

He confirmed that the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and Africell have agreed to provide walk-through disinfectant channels and cargo disinfection machines, at the arrival section of the airport.

Responding to the DG, the Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation 2 – Dr. Amara Jambai, said that collaboration is the key to achieving great results. “The hallmark of this inter-ministerial success is to flawlessly work in close collaboration with all parties involved, to ensure activities are properly coordinated.

“Things are happening very fast and Sierra Leone cannot be isolated from such progress. The airport is the face of Sierra Leone to the outside world, so we must ensure that all the necessary measures have been in place to avoid public outcry. We will work with Professor Gevao to ensure the mobile testing system is set up speedily,” he said.

The Minister of Transport and Aviation – Kabineh Kallon, spoke about the ECOWAS mandate on the reopening of all sub-regional airports to scheduled commercial flight operations. He however, stated that the reopening of the Freetown International Airport cannot be achieved without the close collaboration of MTA, the aviation industry, and MoHS.

He also said that President Bio will announce the date for the reopening of the airport, when all public health protocols have been followed.

Responding to questions on contact tracing, the Minister said that Africell Mobile Company has offered to provide a mobile application that would trace and track passengers when the need arises.

The Chief Medical Officer, Rev Dr. Timothy Samba spoke about the importance of collaboration, consistency, conformity, and commitment to achieve a positive result, adding that MoHS should have an office at the airport to coordinate daily activities for prompt compliance.

He concluded that the testing system should have some form of quality control; and that adequate number of staff should be stationed at the airport, for effective monitoring and service delivery.

The Director of Health Emergency and Security, Dr. Mohamed Vandi, said that they are eager to reopen the airport, given the numerous public concerns, but he raised concerns on three keys areas: digitalising the Passenger Locator Forms to expedite the process, swabbing before going through Immigration to prevent passengers from escaping the rest of the process, and releasing test results without further delay.

He concluded by assuring that Infection, Prevention, and Control (IPCs) training for all frontline workers at the airport is ready to commence.

By: Abdul Rashid Thomas


Swissport Lowers Profit Projections Over COVID-19 Crisis

Swissport Tanzania - the ground handling and cargo service provider - has lowered its current year's profit projections by 83.2 percent, citing the Covid-19 pandemic that created a "tougher than anticipated" business environment.

The firm's CEO, Mr Mrisho Yassin, said that, during the Covid-19 period, the company expected Sh839 million in profit: a steep downward revision from the Sh5 billion previously forecast.

"We've downgraded our forecasts for 2020 pretty much across the board," Mr Yassin told The Citizen over the phone last week. "This has been driven mostly by the impact of Covid-19."

With most passenger flights suspended amid the pandemic, the Swissport's revenues were affected, forcing a cut in profit projection.

The company pulled down its revenue forecast for the full year to Sh28.17 billion from the Sh41 billion it predicted before the pandemic, according to Mr Yassin.

In response to the ongoing public-health crisis, lockdowns and or travel bans have been announced by various governments globally, measures which have significantly affected the aviation industry.

Swissport Tanzania, which handles 23 customer airlines has not been spared either.

Mr Yassin said the company was now operating at between 30 to 40 percent of its normal operations for ground handling business.

He said the cargo business remained stable compared to the ground handling business.

He added that for cargo business, the company was operating at between 60 and 70 percent of its normal operations.

This is because cargo operations continued even after imposing restrictions on air transport.

Tanzania suspended all scheduled and non-scheduled international passenger flights in mid- April, before lifting the ban on May 18.

However, cargo flight crew members were allowed on condition set by individual countries of destination including being put under quarantine for the duration of their stay.

To survive the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Swissport, which has 1,000 employees, has taken a raft of cost-cutting measures including a 50 percent cut in salaries of its 400 staff who have been sent on paid leave.

The company is also in talks with some government institutions to get a relief package with a view to minimising the effect of the pandemic.

"With the government's decision to open our skies, we are confident our operations will resume normal," noted Mr Yassin.

So far Ethiopian Airlines, Qatar Airways and KLM are back to the game, with Swissport saying the Swiss Air was expected to follow suit very soon.

Mr Yassin said Swiss Air was scheduled to be operating cargo flights once a week.

By: Alex Malanga


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