British Airways Gives In To Ghana’s Empty Threat

Filed Under: British Airways

A few weeks ago Ghana’s government made a totally empty threat against British Airways, and it seems like it worked…

Why Ghana threatened British Airways

British Airways flies to Accra, Ghana. Historically the airline has operated its Ghana service out of London Heathrow Airport, but for flights as of March 28, 2021, the airline had planned to operate the flight out of London Gatwick Airport.

Ghana’s government wasn’t happy about this change. Gatwick is generally considered to be less premium than Heathrow, so the government called this change “unfavorable” towards Ghanaian passengers.

Ghana’s government decided to threaten British Airways with reciprocal action — if British Airways wanted to transfer the Ghana flight to Gatwick, then Ghana would require British Airways to use a less premium airport in Ghana.

There was only one small problem with the threat — Kotoka International Airport (ACC) in Accra is the only major international airport in the country, so there’s not another airport the service could practically be moved to.

Was Ghana’s government really going to essentially ban British Airways flights just out of pride?

British Airways backtracks, gives in to Ghana

You’d think British Airways would have maintained its stance, recognizing that the government’s threat was baseless. That’s not what happened, though — British Airways has made the decision to continue operating the Accra route out of Heathrow rather than Gatwick.

The service is operated out of Heathrow as of now, and that will continue to be the case even as of later this month, when the transition was supposed to happen.

Bottom line

British Airways will continue to operate its service to Ghana out of Heathrow rather than Gatwick. The airline was going to change the airport for this service as part of a strategy shift, though Ghana’s government threatened the airline over this.

The problem is that this was clearly an empty threat, as there’s no practical option to punish British Airways with reciprocity, given that the country doesn’t have another major airport.

However, British Airways gave in, and will continue to operate this service out of Heathrow. I’m curious to hear what Ghana’s next complaint about British Airways will be, given that the government has a history of taking issue with the airline.

Are you surprised to see British Airways give in to Ghana’s threat?

  1. Wrong to say they’ve given in – the route is still moving to LGW for W21. The same has happened to ISB which was originally planned to move to LGW but is remaining at LHR for S21.

  2. What evidence do you have that BA’s decision is because of Ghana’s threat? This is worse than gossip girls

  3. Not really giving in when BA actually following thru practical given trying to keep a lid on costs and they’re far from running full operations out of LHR, and LGW currently v limited

  4. Lol just because British Airways is in a position of power/may have more leverage in this situation than the Ghanaian government doesn’t mean that BA shouldn’t listen to the Ghanaian government’s concerns and act accordingly…

  5. You probably shouldn’t assume the correlation between BA’s backtrack and that particular threat

  6. This post provides interesting and worthwhile information. I appreciate that, as always. But the conclusions and opinions are silly. Pissing off the Ghanian government and its diplomats, for minor short term financial gain, would not benefit BA. BA is not stupid. I suspect the Foreign Office weighed in and all settled amicably. Remember BA is a flag carrier, unlike airlines in The United States of America.

  7. I wonder if it wasn’t that much of an empty threat… theoretically they could have redirected BA to Kumasi (KSI), which is quite a hike from Accra but another population center in Ghana.

  8. @DenB®
    BA is not a “flag carrier” — all UK airlines are private entities. In fact, BA is wholly owned by a Spanish company which, itself, is owned in large part by Qatari and Canadian companies.

  9. @The nice Paul I think you’ll find that while all your assertions about its ownership are true and correct, BA is nevertheless the Flag Carrier of Her Majesty’s United Kingdom. As Air Canada is of Canada, in spite of being a publicly traded company. Flag status isn’t about government ownership.

  10. @The nice Paul. Sorry but BA is considered a flag carrier irrespective of the ownership.

    @adam Kumasi has 1982 metre runway and one scheduled flight to Accra and about 400kms away. Hardly comparable to LGW and LHR.

    I would be interested to know what alternative airport the Ghanaian government would suggest , since there is none other than Kotoka Accra. Gatwick is still a London airport and no idea why they made such an idiotic demand.

    Perhaps Ghana can set up its own airline. Oh wait

  11. Whenever our Mayor gets back from Cabo I hope he demands that BA resume the LHR-AUS flight or forever be banned to SAT. I miss seeing the Speedbird come in every afternoon

  12. @ DenB®

    Christ: what century were you born in?!

    Then I’m curious how you decide which airline is a flag carrier. Which US airline, for instance? Is it American because that’s the name of the country?!

    “Flag carrier” is from a time when Imperial Airways did exactly what it said on the tin. The western world is no longer like that (mostly).

  13. @Icarus
    Considered by you, maybe. Show me any statute or other official instrument that supports your personal belief.

  14. @The nice Paul (!) I’m sorry I touched a nerve. I do see that my attempt to write a completely snark-free post was unsuccessful. I was born in a previous century.

    You ask how I decide; I don’t decide. I believe the USA does not have a flag carrier; I’d be keen to be confirmed or corrected on that point. If they do it’s certainly AA. I know (dunno how I know) that the UK and Canada do. I confess that’s not extensive knowledge, but I’m only expressing confidence when I’m certain.

    Other carriers I know for certain are flag carriers: China Airlines (Taiwan ROC), Thai Airways (Thailand), El Al (Israel). Ones I’m curious but uncertain about: Japan Airlines, Lufthansa, Swiss, Aeromexico, Emirates/Etihad (neither?). I know Saudia (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) is a flag carrier, from when MBS killed all their Canada service when a Canadian woman in a red dress criticized him for jailing bloggers.

    Your assertion about Imperial Airways is untrue. Flag carrier is a current term, with real meaning.

    Too bad there are no Aviation bloggers to clear this stuff up.

  15. @thenicepaul.It’s a global carrier with the flag as part of its branding. It’s even What would you suggest ? Loganair

    Recommend you drop the nice

  16. @Icarus
    The nice is ironic.

    So it’s a meaningless term then (Virgin Atlantic is a global carrier (I think?) that boasts about carrying the UK flag on its planes. Why isn’t it “the flag carrier”)?

    Of airlines based in the UK easyJet is a much bigger than BA, and it’s British owned. Surely that must have a better claim?

    But the pompous term implies some sort of connection to the business of the state. Western commercial airlines — most of them — just aren’t like that. So I would suggest the UK doesn’t have a flag carrier. Just like the US doesn’t.

  17. Virgin Atlantic has the Union Jack on their aircraft as well as being associated with Richard Branson a British icon and major shareholder, so does that make them a national flag carrier?

  18. @ DenB®

    Those are just your assertions. What’s your definition of a “flag carrier”? I can’t see anything that lot have in common but others don’t.

  19. Responding to Jerry: Yes, we in San Antonio would love to have BA fly from LHR to SAT. Then you can drive down here from AUS instead of v.v.

  20. @ DenB

    Being a ‘flag carrier’ means absolutly nothing today.

    And the US DOES have flag carriers. Any airline certificated to fly internationally under section 401 of the 1958 FAA act is legally a flag carrier of the USA

    If as you think

    “Flag carrier is a current term, with real meaning.”

    Perhaps you’d like to explain what you think the current, real meaning is and what benefits it bestows on such airlines that aren’t available to other airlines

  21. Worth noting that Britain and Ghana announced a trade deal today. I wonder if a quiet word was had in BA’s ear in order to smooth the way.

  22. Ben – a post purely made up of speculation, unless you have evidence to prove otherwise, which I suspect not.
    My sources suggest the decision was unconnected with this pathetic “threat”.

  23. This is very misleading and is in fact totally false, with absolutely no evidence to back this up. British Airways have delayed the movement of routes from Heathrow to Gatwick until the start of W21 for reasons unbeknownst to us. This includes Accra, which will move to Gatwick at the end of October.

    The reason for this delay is likely due to lower than expected demand, meaning that British Airways is able to maintain these routes at Heathrow for now.

  24. The ACC was operated from LGW for many years – as most former B. Cal routes. I think the move to LHR was only a few years back…so traditionally I would say that it was operated from LGW.

  25. I think you need to look at the wider picture in terms of the many Gatwick routes currently being operated out of Heathrow due to overall decreased demand. There was an expectation that many would move back to Gatwick this year as travel picks up but so far the previously positive forecasts of increased travel in 2021 are not really materialising with BA maintaining flights at Heathrow and not Gatwick. There are many examples where BA was selling flights out of Gatwick for S21 and has now cancelled them or moved them to Heathrow as happened last year. That said, it could also have something to do with the trade deal. But no one has hard evidence as to what the reasons are.

    As for “flags”… I am personally always confused as to how people decide things like “flagship aircraft” or “flag carrier”. I’d love to hear some facts around that. Is there a global definition? A local one? Who decides? Can it be challenged?

  26. @The Nut Paul can always be relied upon to lower the tone of any discussion by his inexplicable bouts of self-righteous indignation. Why seemingly intelligent posters feel obliged to dignify her with a cogent response is….beyond me.

  27. This is factually incorrect. The claims were not baseless as Ghana is building an international airport in their second city, Kumasi. Ghana had threatened to only allow british airways to arrive and depart from their new international airport which is set to open 2021. This was deemed as less favourable due to the popularity of their Kotoka airport. To put it in british context, imagine if a country only allowed you to use their Manchester airport rather than any of their London airport – a city which is 100 miles from the capital city. Of course, there would be an uproar. Its clear this article is subject to ethnocentric bias. Please write an article with all the facts instead of a rather ‘baseless’ article.

  28. See

    The main point is that moving the airport to Kumasi International Airport, again which is set to open this year, would make it harder for transiting passenger and for passengers to access the capital city. I am proud of the Ghanaian government for this bold move. Highly disappointed that this article would call it an empty threat.

  29. The article is misleading in the main, because Ghana does have another functioning international airport at Kumasi.. Therefore it was no empty threat when the Ghanian Government said it would transfer BA flights to that airport.
    Please do endeavour to do more in- depth research on issues before writing an article or making posts.

  30. IF British Airways (founded 1974, showing the cynical hype of their “100th” birthday) were ever a flag carrier it was when they delivered the products they market and could genuinely claim to be innovative. For the most part they have become wholly profit focused, not giving a damn about whether they actually deliver the products they have sold consumers and taking every operational short cut and additional charge opportunity they can (eg. seat choice in business).
    Events of the last year have served to clarify in many observers minds that this division of the Spanish conglomerate IAG in no way acts in the British interests & therefore cannot be considered a flag carrier. If the ruthless exploitation of their inherited slot dominance doesn’t demonstrate this, then perhaps the closure of their regional bases will? Failure to service the UK as a whole means they would be more accurately titled “London Airways”. Or the outsourcing of most of their major operations to sites outside the UK? OK, well perhaps their customer hostile policies and intentional failure to comply with UK consumer law will convince:

  31. Icarus, there is much more than a single flight a day between Accra and Kumasi. There are upwards of 14 daily flights between both cities. A new terminal is nearly completed along with the runway expansion. BA decision to move to LGW is utterly ridiculous and significantly impacts one world partner airline passengers who connects to BA. These connection flights do not operate to and from LGW. As a an Emerald One World member who flies to ACC via BA LHR connection every 3 weeks – from the scheduled change that was to be effective 28 March, I have already rerouted by travels from BA to other one world carriers that service ACC. I’m sure BA experience a big volume of cancelation as a result of the move. The objection had nothing to do with LGW being a so called lesser airport as may have been described in Ghana news outlets, but rather the fact that LGW is a headache to connect to if all major airlines are operating to LHR. For people beginning their travel in London or the UK I don’t think they care so much but it’s not about those people.

  32. This is not the first time various ridiculous complaints have been made by authorities. For instance, there was a president who complained BA were using older aircraft on a route, another one required an airline to operate aircraft with a proper business class. These are just two specific cases I know of – assume there are more.

    As others have said, BA have almost no ops at Gatwick

  33. Probably best to stick to what you know here.

    There is real damage to Accra’s connectivity by losing a Heathrow flight. LGW just isn’t as good as it’s almost entirely focused on O/D traffic.

    There are all kinds of ways Ghana’s aviation authority could have made things difficult for BA, it just kind of shows that this blog is a bit out of its depth. As has been pointed out, a new terminal is in the works.

    Fair enough, “flag carrier” doesn’t mean anything, but toxic snark adds nothing to the discussion.

  34. Personally I am glad to see BA retract its plan to move the ACC flight to LGW. I fly IAD-LHR-ACC frequently on BA and with the proposed shift in airport in London, I would have had to seek alternate routings. I know UAL will begin IAD-ACC soon as SAA seems to be out of the picture indefinitely. The IAD-LHR-ACC has a fair amount of traffic.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Reminder: OMAAT comments are changing soon. Register here to save your space.