New Ghanaian airline Goldstar Air plans to start flights to the U.S. Baltimore Washington International Airport in the first quarter of 2017 if its air operator’s certificate comes through, according to CEO Eric Bannerman, Air Transport World reported. Ghana hasn’t had a national long-haul carrier since Ghana Airways, one of Africa’s oldest airlines, stopped flying in December 2015. Getting one will remove one of the stumbling blocks that prevented a Ghanaian airport from becoming a West African hub, according to an earlier AFKInsider report. There is no strong airline and no airport hub in West and Central Africa, reported.

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To be a hub, an airport needs an airline to drive the hub, according to travel business consultant Ikechi Uko. It must also have cheap aviation fuel plus maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities. It also must have a good transfer desk and transit section with transit visas issued on arrival. As of today, no West African airport has all the ingredients. Ghana wants to claim the spot, offering visas on arrival to all Africans starting July 1. It also reduced the cost of aviation fuel by 25 percent. All that was missing was a strong airline and maintenance facilities. The new Ghanian carrier plans to start service in February or March 2017, and in addition to the U.S., is considering London Gatwick, Guangzhou and Dubai as its next long-haul destinations, Bannerman said.

Goldstar Air struggled since 2014 to get clearance from the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, and its launch date was postponed at least once already, Citi FM reported in June. It announced it would begin operations by the third quarter of 2016. That didn’t happen. The airline said earlier this year it plans to offer regional flights to the Gambian capital of Banjul; Dakar, Senegal; Conakry, Guinea; Monrovia, Liberia; and Freetown, Sierra Leone, according to Citi FM.

It will serve other West African capitals including Abidjan, Ivory Coast from the Ghanaian capital Accra, Bannerman told ATW at the World Travel Market exhibition in London. Ghana made up for the absence of a strong carrier by issuing other airlines rights to carry passengers from Accra. South African Airways (SAA) has the right to fly to Washington D.C. for a year. Kenya Airways can fly to Freetown; TAP Portugal to Sao Tome; and Air Maroc, Egypt Air among others, reported. Goldstar will operate two financed (not leased) Boeing 737-300s and three 767-300s, Bannerman said, but he declined to name the new carrier’s backers. Ghanaian flight crews will be trained overseas for future flights, he said. The carrier’s website said that flight deck personnel will initially be expatriates.

Source: AFK Insider