It was the turn of Ghana’s Kotoka International Airport (KIA) for the red carpet the other week.
Another best practice acclamation came our way when the Airport Council International made our country proud by ranking the KIA as the best International Airport in West Africa and the fourth best on the African continent.
A fortnight ago as Ghana hosted the annual general assembly of the Airport Council; it was a matter of pride to watch one speaker after speaker on television, commending KIA for what they had seen of the airport and its contribution to airport safety and security. It reminded me that Ghana has some good stories to tell just that we do not applaud ourselves enough unless someone from outside does it for us. Even then, some cynicisms are bound to come up. “Can anything good come out of Ghana?” they will ask.
Apprehensions of air travel
These days travelling by air seems to have lost some shine. It is no longer a joy. The hassle one goes through whether it is departure or arrival; it is becoming more and more torturous. The apprehensions start from the airport even before one gets into the aircraft and then fasten your seat belt sign beckons. That is where one asks silently, “why am I putting myself through this?”
And so, having put one’s self through that trepidation with seemingly endless hours in the air and stormy turbulence that keeps one’s heart thumping, arriving safely at an airport that has a record of friendliness, safety and security, whittles away half of one’s anxieties. It gets even more uneasy when one spots strange behaviours in a passenger nearby. It makes one constantly alert and gingers a wish that the journey had ended sooner.
So when finally the aircraft safely touches down and one breathes a sigh of relief all that one gets looking forward to is a welcoming airport, friendly and easy to get through. It gets even more exhilarating when one steps into the arrival hall and experiences a welcoming live band playing “Welcome Home” and other soft highlife tunes of days gone by. The Ghana Airports Company indeed makes arrival at KIA a real welcome with a feel of home in the air. This is an innovation which I find quite unique and certainly worth applauding.
KIA has come far, let us admit it. We used to have an international airport with nothing international about it except for the international nature of the few business hungry airlines that hanged around. We proudly claimed we were the gateway to the sub-region but not much looked that enticing to enter the gate.
We went through times of going up and coming down scores of steps to board or disembark an aircraft with loads of hand luggage balanced on both hands. Today, we board and disembark going through a shoot.
Something to celebrate
Those were the days when one arrived at KIA and see leaking ceilings with bowls collecting water at the arrival walkway when it rained. It used to be the time when one remembered to get a few souvenirs for gifts but realised too late that there were no shops to do that last-minute shopping. If one had rushed to the airport without taking a meal, there was nowhere to look for a bite while waiting for the flight. Indeed, KIA has travelled far and moved several steps to become the best international airport in West Africa and even more proud as the fourth-best international airport in the whole of Africa.
We indeed have something to celebrate if KIA has met most if not all the necessary requirements, including aircraft and passenger safety, to wear the crown. However, the Airport authorities should know that the work has only just started. It would not be easy staying at the top.
Eyes need to be kept on the little things that can take a lot of shine away. Things such as tidy toilets, clean waiting areas, professionalism in every staff including those checking baggage tags on arrival and spending less time at immigration are all going to matter a lot.
Eyes are going to be on KIA and so the Ghana Airports Company has a herculean task at its hands. As a parent rejoices at the sterling performance of a child, so we as Ghanaians applaud the successes chalked so far. Uneasy lies the head and so we shall all be watching, KIA. Please do not let the side down.