Oh My: Ghana Threatens British Airways Over “Unfavorable” Gatwick Flight

Filed Under: British Airways

British Airways plans to make some changes to its Ghana service, and the country isn’t happy about it

Why Ghana is angry at British Airways

As of March 28, 2021, British Airways plans to operate its daily service to Accra from Gatwick Airport rather than from Heathrow Airport. The airline justified this move by explaining that only 18% of travelers on the route are traveling for business reasons, and British Airways uses Gatwick more as its leisure airport.

However, Ghana’s government seems to be taking offense to this change, with the Accra flight being moved to London’s less prestigious airport. The government feels that this is unfavorable towards Ghanaian passengers, and is angry that the decision was made unilaterally.

The Ministry of Aviation has sent British Airways a letter threatening to take reciprocal action. In other words, if British Airways wants to transfer the Ghana flight to Gatwick, then the airline will be required to use another airport in Ghana.

As the Ministry of Aviation explains:

“For the avoidance of doubt, we are unable to accept the change in the London-Accra-London flights originating from Gatwick Airport.

We are not convinced about the reasons for the movement of the Accra-bound BA service from Heathrow to Gatwick Airport and thus strongly object to the changes.

In this regard, we wish to state unequivocally, that the Ghanaian authorities will advise itself and take a reciprocal action on behalf of our passengers in the coming days if our call for British Airways to rescind its decision on the movement to Gatwick Airport is not heeded.”

There’s only one small problem with the Ministry of Aviation’s threat — Kotoka International Airport (ACC) in Accra is the only major international airport in the country.

I’m not really sure what the Ministry of Aviation is threatening here. Obviously, the government is hoping that a threat is enough to make British Airways change its mind, but what happens otherwise? It would seem to me that the only real recourse that Ghana has it to force British Airways to suspend flights to the country.

Ghana doesn’t want British Airways’ flight to operate out of Gatwick

This isn’t the first British Airways & Ghana spat

Back in 2017, Ghana’s president met with British Airways’ head of sales in the region, to express frustration over the carrier’s operation in the country. Specifically, he wasn’t happy that the Accra flight was operated out of Heathrow’s Terminal 3 (rather than Terminal 5), and also didn’t like the 747 being used for the route:

“People complain about the movement (of flights to and from Accra) from Terminal five to Terminal three at Heathrow. Terminal three is not so convenient place as Terminal five. There are also complaints about the quality of the planes on the route and the service. In some quarters, there is a feeling that you are taking us a little for granted in the way in which we are receiving your services.”

I think on an occasion like this, for when friends are speaking, I think we should speak frankly. I think I am the proper person to let you know what the pre-occupations of our people are. These are matters that will be easy for you to rectify.”

The British Airways 747 that Ghana wasn’t happy with

Bottom line

Ghana’s government isn’t happy that British Airways is changing its Accra service from Heathrow to Gatwick, arguing it’s “unfavorable” towards passengers. The country is threatening reciprocity in the form of requiring the airline to operate to a different airport in Ghana. The only issue is that ACC is currently the only major international airport in the country.

What do you think — will British Airways give in to the Ministry of Aviation, or will the airline call its bluff?

  1. I think there is a typo in the first line, where you say its moving to LHR from Gatwick, while its the role reversal.

  2. I think you have your first paragraph backwards – BA is planning to fly to Accra out of Gatwick, not Heathrow.

  3. I guess, they would like to move them to Kumasi airport (KMS), which the government has been trying to upgrade to international for quite a while. However, the runway is still too short (6500 ft). I would also strongly doubt that BA would be willing to serve KMS even if the runway was upgrades. While Kumasi has some importance at national level, it’s not an international destination. It is 250km or about a 7 hours drive from Accra …

  4. I’m so glad that the Ghanaian government has their priorities in order, especially during a global pandemic…

  5. Ghana and Britain are indeed old friends and I do think that BA ought to show its sensitivity to the Ghanaian government here as old friends do, even though I don’t think that necessarily means keeping flights at Heathrow.

  6. during non-pandemic times, this will be terrible for travelers going to or coming from the US or other places that are better served by Heathrow. Also, this immediately complicates transit visa requirements for certain passport holders. Doesn’t seem well thought out, but I guess BA does have their own number crunchers to make economic sense of it.

  7. If Ghana doesn’t like it, perhaps they could launch flights on their own airline and equipment to LHR? Oh… wait – the slot costs… Sounds to me like Ghana just needs to deal.

  8. It should be noted that the Ministry of Aviation has been disbanded just a few days after issuing this statement, and the erstwhile minister is no longer a member of cabinet. Just to put things into a bit of context regarding the domestic politics involved.

  9. Smells like slot optimization for BA at LHR (even if they aren’t using a number of them) than anything else.

  10. Ghana International Airlines flew to Gatwick when it existed.

    I’m sure Global Ghana Airlines will set a better example for the proud country 😉

  11. I think that British Airways should do more long haul routes at Gatwick, I think that now Norwegian has stop the long haul routes . I think that British Airways should do more routes like San Francisco , los Angeles , Atlanta , or Evan more Asian routes like Dubai , Tel Aviv.

  12. I think this is a great move by BA. After all Gatwick is easier to get to from most of London. The only problem is those in transit from USA etc. They will have to travel by road and train to Gatwick . Maybe if BA are saving on fuel then they can reduce prices to reflect this . But if Ghana decide to force BA to land in Kumasi , then the real losers will be Ghanaians who will have a nightmare onward journey to Accra . But hey as one writer said launch Ghana Airways – but if my memory serves me right didn’t Ghana Airways fly from Gatwick ????

  13. Some points and statistics to note :

    1) Approx. 55% of BA’s capacity on this route is filled with O&D traffic between ACC-LON with around 82% load factor (2018 figures)

    2) Over 80% of passengers on the route can be equivalently transported with connections over Gatwick rather than Heathrow

    3) The catchment area for O&D traffic between UK-Ghana is weighted 60-40 in favour of Gatwick over Heathrow. Despite being the only non-stop operator on the route, BA has barely 60% of the total O&D market share with their Heathrow operations.

    4) Only 17% of passengers on the route are traveling for “business” reasons (per BA’s own comments). BA intended to use higher density 777s that are based in Gatwick for the route.

    5) With US and Canada restrictions on entry for passengers connecting through the UK, the proportion of connecting traffic has essentially dropped to near zero in 2020.

    6) Delta has significantly increased capacity to Ghana since September and United plans to enter the market in May, further reducing potential for already diminished North American connectivity.

  14. This would appear to be a prestige/ego issue on the part of the Ghanian government. They have the feeling (as some do) that having a flight to London is a must and Heathrow is the place where serious flights are dispatched. The move to LGW is being taken as an insult – like treating Ghana as a second class country.

    While I find this illogical and crazy, this is how I see it. The government has a massive chip on their shoulder and now they’re taking it out on BA, who simply made a logical business decision.

  15. im sorry, is the concern that BA flights are operating out of T3 a huge issue that the President had to get involved with it?

    and British Airways, watch out! Global Ghana Airlines and Goldstar Air will steal all your market share on the Ghana to London route. Heck, they’ll steal all the Africa-US market, thanks to their new Accra-Chicago and Accra-Baltimore routes on their beautiful 777s with amazing Business Class product that puts ANA’s new business class to shame.

    on a serious note though, why would the president involve in such matters? do they not have anything important to do, such as dealing with the vaccines, taking care of the people during the pandemic?

  16. I’m sure BA will be happy to operate those flights out of LHR if the government of Ghana covers the extra cost and lost revenue. Oh right, they won’t. Well, shush then.

  17. What’s with some countries and this prestige thing. National carrier (prestige airlines), prestige routes, prestige airports, etc… The cost of this prestige, does not make business nor econo-political sense for these countries.

  18. Whats the point of life if there’s no prestige? I think many first world people are underestimating the culture and values of people outside of the bubble.. Not saying who’s right or wrong, there is no right or wrong.

  19. SeanM: Very insightful comment — thank you very much. I’m not familiar with the acronym “O&D”, might you clarify?

  20. @BayBoy78 – O&D is “Origin and Destination”. In this case, it means the number of passengers who travel between Accra and London (excluding those who connect onwards).

  21. I used to fly regularly from Gatwick to Lagos on British Caledonian. Yes, most of my flying was done out of Heathrow, but actually, with a good train connection to Gatwick from central London, this was not a second class approach at all.
    If Ghana cannot get business travelers in quantity, is this BA’s fault or does it show a lack of government focus on business?

  22. The title was potentially a missed opportunity! You could have written “Oh My Ghana!” Lolol.

    (Though maybe you felt that level of surprise was too much to express for this topic)

  23. This is infinitely simple. Should the Gov of Ghana take such humbridge to the move then they can learn that as a private company BA has ZERO requirements to operate ANY flight to their nation.

    Instead the Ghianan Gov can find, negotiate and employ another airline who has spare LHR slots they are willing to use for said flight all things that I’m sure will will be both easy to do and cost effective for both the Ghianan Gov and it’s citizens right about now.

    I mean maybe it’s time those pesky ex-colonional powers recinded that white privilege and let the Ghianan’s find a new flight provider at an equally equitable rate

    Happy for them to achieve that goal, otherwise a quick lesson in both reality and stfu is probably reasonable.

  24. Maybe the Ghanaian government should vent at the UK government rather than a private company who are under no obligation to fly the route. I guess the Ghanaian government have no covid issues too since this somehow is a priority. Anyway, Sean gave great detail as to why this shouldn’t be a thing. IMO pax arriving at LGW have a better/cheaper/faster way of getting into London via Gatwick express than LHR. If it’s connections – LGW are getting MAN. EU connections are good too (and cheaper if going with say easyJet).

  25. The transfer between terminals was inconvenient as it added another step in travel (at least from the US). And invariably it was raining as one went from T5 to T3 (which isn’t a great terminal anyway). Not to mention visa issues for some. As a frequent traveller to Ghana pre-COVID, this is why I gave up gold status on BA— anyone but BA. KLM, Brussels, Air France all have same airport transfers between US and Accra and I switched to them. I will also be trying the Delta direct flight out of NY once I can travel. Don’t miss BA.

  26. @ArchieWells- not sure about a BA Gatwick-Atlanta route since almost the entire point of the ATL is that you’re connecting with a SkyTeam carrier there rather than O&D traffic, especially leisure O&D traffic. (The only time I’ve ever left the airport there was to get a hotel during IRROPS and I’m a quite common sort of US flyer in that regard.) Gatwick-Charlotte gets you into the American regional network in a far more useful way.

  27. Really random but ACC is a super nice airport. Even without lounge access, it’s a great place to kill a couple of hours.

  28. The Ghanaians are laughable:

    “In this regard, we wish to state unequivocally, that the Ghanaian authorities will advise itself and take a reciprocal action on behalf of our passengers in the coming days”


  29. Not sure why my comment did not post: let me rephrase in short form. No need to take BA from the US: lots of other European airlines have same airport transfers. I stopped taking BA from the US to Accra (despite being a gold member) because of the hassle of the T5 to T3 issue ( with invariably rainy weather). Gatwick will be an issue, as pointed out, for some because of transit visa issues. Much simpler for me to go through Brussels, Amsterdam or Paris than doing Heathrow-Gatwick-Accra.

  30. Ben, this article smacks of the arrogance and disrespect with which westerners approach issues with Africans. It lacks professionalism and disrespects both the people of Ghana and the complaints being made.

    First of all there are numerous other airports in Ghana aside Kotoka and if you are making the argument that none is up to the standard of Kotoka, then fair enough but remember it is the same reason Ghanaians prefer Heathrow over Gatwick.

    Secondly the picture of the 747 you have shown is misleading. As though Ghanaians have no right to complain about condition of such a nice looking airplane. This is unfortunate and exposes your lack of credibility as a genuine blogger. Have you ever sat in a BA plane to Ghana? Then show those pictures. I sat in one before and the whole thing is a dirty unsanitary mess of an excuse. The treatment from BA stuff is awful and the service in totality is an insult.

  31. @Mike A – while there are multiple other airports in Ghana, none of them are certified to accept scheduled international flights other than Kotoka International Airport in Accra at present.

  32. I am British but I will not fly British Airways and have not done so for 15 years . They are unimaginative , with poor service , poor food and high prices . There are lots of better choices at half the price with better service to many locations but not sure about Ghana .

  33. Having flown to Accra many times for work and to LHR returning home I think it’s wrong to berate BA this matter should be channeled to the UK Gov.
    Further, Ghana must understand airlines constantly review flights, equipment used and pax numbers Eco,Biz Class. The last fligh out of Accra was on a 777 it was a busy flight and I was upgraded to Biz on a heavy Econ flight I enjoyed my Biz experience. It’s not unreasonable to fly to Gatwick and for me it’s better connected I guess the issue will be for transit pax who fly onto USA. I now fly if. Can into Amsterdam and into the UK so maybe those who are not happy should fly KLM which covers the USA extremely well out of Schiphol and KLM fly to Accra plus you can fly from Amsterdam to many uk cities directly rather than land at Heathriw which for me is difficult to reach if i’am on a noon flight , so I feel BA,s decision is correct in this case and is wrong to vent objections like this on BA, maybe Ghana should provide high standard flights of its own to its citizens, I have to also say Ghana should build a new airport in Accra as I found the airport old and tired looking so first they should focus on infrastructure.
    I have flown with KLM for years into Lagos on the MD11,s and I really like KLM vs BA I always found KLM to be superior to BA plus I’ll agree BA staff are not very polite and warm to its paying travelers for Ghana it’s not the end but to now look at alternatatives, experience new carriers and service either way i’am sure these changes make sense to improve the overall service level to everyone. Happy travels, let’s hope we can all get back on board soon and enjoy the wonderful experience air travel offers us stay safe and long live air travel.

  34. Seriously the Ghanaian government is bluffing….you take the offer or start your own airline business. End of….

  35. The Ghanaian government is justified to protest against the obvious diminished priority level this change will place Ghanaian flyers. The British government forced us to negotiate every little operational procedures at our airport to facilitate a specific arrangement between their airliners and our airport then they have slowly and unilaterally changed most of the original arrangements to suits their changing requirements without even consulting us. We warned our leaders against giving up the national airline to depend on these tricksters.

  36. As someone who flies to Ghana from this US to Accra, Ghana. This is terrible. I just went to book a ticket and now have to decline using BA and will use another carrier. The reason is because of this shift to Gathi know you are mentioning and your article seemed to be slanted and somewhat condescending toward Ghana. The issue isn’t because one is more “prestigious” the other which you interpreted as what is happening her and is condescending. The issue is that when flying internationally to,h]ghan most flights go through London. So the first leg goes to Heathrow but then somehow you are to get yourself to Gatwick, which is a 40 minute drive without traffic. Add London area traffic you are looking at an hour or more travel. What airline in their right mind flies a passenger into 1 airport and requires them to fly out of a different airport to complete their booking/flight!!! In addition to the added travel…imagine then having to go through customs, go get your luggage then have to check-in and go through security all over again once arriving to Gatwick. Last time I landed in London it took 90 minutes to get through customs. This is a HUGE inconvenience on many levels: the layover time needs to be a minimum of 4 hours; it is costly (added taxi or train fare) and dangerous. It’s already a risk to travel during COVID but the to be required to leave the airport into one of the most infectious areas in the world??!! British airways has lost my patronage to Ghana (which I travel to 2-3 times a year) and in general. I simply cannot support an airline that disregards its customer to this degree.

  37. Someone on this thread said that Ghana and Britain are old friends, how can they be old friends when Britain colonized Ghana and Ghana fought to prevent it. Friends don’t attack their friends and enslave them for hundreds of years. Lastly, I agree with Ghana, the airport these flights are flown out of and the planes that are used directly affect Ghana’s tourism sector. These issues are the first things that people traveling to Ghana will experience and see, including first time visitors to Ghana. I think Britain should leave the flights at Heathrow and if they don’t, Ghana should accommodate them at Kotoka after expanding the landing

  38. On a wider issue, people continually complain about the notoriously high fares to Lagos. The argument being that for the distance Lagos/Abuja , are amongst the highest fares in the world. BA still use 4 class service to nigeria,so yields must be decent,one would guess.

  39. I second what roya said, imagine the inconveniences you have to go through when doing transit to another destination, you can even miss your second flight. Very soon the second city Kumasi airport is almost in completion become an international airport. BA can land there too, I think the government of Ghana must also stand firm and not to be pushed around. There is more than 500,000 Ghanaians living in the UK, plus Ghanaians in the US and Canada also uses Heathrow as point of connecting to Accra. If BA have their way they will always push them around.

  40. Since when did the Spanish owned, private company, ‘British’ airways have to worry about the feelings of a Ghanaian minister?
    Why on earth would the British government get involved on behalf of a Spanish company?
    Get a grip on ministerial corruption, invest in national infrastructure projects that benefit Ghanaian people & stop lining your own pockets at the people’s expense.

  41. I think this is a storm in a tea cup. A part from T5 being a newer terminal it doesn’t add or take anything from pasengers. I like Gatwick Airport and would choose it over Heathrow because its easy for me to get to.

  42. I wonder how the connection will work out for folks flying from the Americas to get to Accra . Any body think about that!

  43. This is great move. Heathrow is too crowded and long queue. I came back from ghana 2weeks ago and i stayed in a queue for 4hrs. I decided not to travel through Heathrow again.

  44. My question for the Ghana Government is where was operating her Ghana International Airline from in the early 2000s?Was it not from Gatwick?So why the complaint if BA is flying from same venue?

  45. I have gotten to Acc on numerous occasions and although there is great criticism for BA here, it’s the only direct flight to Acc and only takes 6hrs. Any other option gets you there the next day, because I go on business this causes me to lose a day. I am originally from Barbados and both BA and Virgin fly 747s there until the 747s retired. I find them to be very spacious and very nice.

  46. The Government’s threat lacks commercial credibility. This should be an opportunity for Virgin, perhaps, to take up the LHR slot, either alone or as as joint venture with the Government of Ghana.

  47. Yes I agree with Ghana. BA has a habit of making decisions without discussing with the relevant African Country first.
    They have one of the busiest flights into the African continent. It is appalling on how they try to bully us or become disrespectful.Many years ago it was the same behaviour with Nigeria. And the Nigerian government banned them.
    We in in Africa need to stand up to this kind of behaviour.

  48. I use both Heathrow and Gatwick. And to be honest I prefer Gatwick if you are not hubbing. Which maybe the Ghana Government grip. For VFR I would have thought Gatwick is fine. I find the journey to victoria pretty good whereas you either get Hex and tube from paddington or tube directly from central terminal to central London. So it’s a bit more contrived from LHR. Cross rail will eventually help I suppose . Anyway I don’t think it’s a massive issue to be honest.

  49. I operated many flights to Ghana in the past decade, usually we had delays, passengers were late checking in, they always had too much hold baggage and didn’t want to pay the excess, the “hand baggage” was the size of a small wardrobe, they complained the seats were small but in reality they were too large. Arriving back to LHR late was an issue with holding and slots, all in all Gatwick would be a more flexible option as passengers can be rounded up well in advance and given the rail service directly to the terminal it should make life easier all round. The other issue is contraband, LHR was so busy many pax just walked right through customs, at LGW they don’t have the volumes and more attention can be given to “certain areas”. In 10 years I probably had at least 3 deaths in flight with drugs being swallowed and breaking in stomachs and at least the same attempts at child smuggling, with the so called “mothers” claiming illness on landing to try and get expedited through without questions. If BA want to change airports for commercial reasons, it’s up to them and nothing to do with Ghana government. Their own airline had safety and operation problems, fuelled by corruption in governments, they should be grateful there are any flights from the UK. Hopefully they can rebuild an airline structure in the future but hiring back “old staff” to fly new 787 is like giving Dracula the keys to the blood bank. Of course they are a proud nation and have strong ties with the Uk that we should respect, however, put your own house in order before criticising others.

  50. Britain must show more respect to commonwealth nations and give them better previlages.
    The kingdom holds up better with the commonwealth and should not be taken for grant ( in these era of times)

  51. Petros is right
    Ghanaians need strick operation rules to keep them under principles
    The gov of Ghana must heed and pay attention to such observations

  52. The decision was reversed
    Was that because of the protest or other commercial reasons or both?

  53. This issue is academic bcos in addition to Heathrow and Gatwick there are also London City, London Stansted, London Biggin Hill and London Luton airports. It all depends on how fast you wish to travel. And how much you can afford.

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