There’s a Place for You Here – Part 1

by Egi Gaisie

Did people really go to the airport just to watch planes take off and land? Yes. In my youthful years, I remember seeing families with children, groups of school children and many adults at the airport coming to watch airplanes land and take off! They were not seeing anyone off or expecting anyone on a flight. It was just a past time!

I have vague images of mothers and their children getting out of their homes waving at airplanes flying above their houses! These are some of my childhood reminiscences of airplanes!

This begins a new series, ‘There’s a place for you; There’s a place for you here’, on articles intended to challenge young adult readers to explore the vast career opportunities in the hospitality and tourism industry.

Transportation is a necessary evil in tourist travel. It is not unusual for a tourist to use the different modes of transportation, a plane, a train, a car and boat, on one vacation trip! Traveling to, from or within Ghana is however, mainly by road and air.

Have you ever thought about how people with careers in aviation got there? I have . . . several times!!

This is the more reason why I ‘jumped on’ the opportunity of reconnecting with a ‘lost and found’, my Guest for this discussion, whom I knew as a hospitality professional but had crossed over and been in the aviation industry for some time now.  She is in the person of Madam Gloria Wilkinson Mensah, the Country Manager of South African Airways. Welcome Madam.

Host: It’s exciting to have you on the blog. It was a pleasant surprise reconnecting with you. I’m eager to hear your story of crossing the ‘lines’ from lodging-hospitality to aviation!

Guest: I was responding positively to a family need to relocate from Agona Nkwanta, Busua, to Accra in early 1998, which also meant resigning from my employment at the time, as Guest Relations and Front Office Manager, deputizing for the Resident Manager at the Busua Beach Resort.

My rich exposure to customer care and service orientation, acquired through professional training and hands on experience became the enabler and bridge that facilitated my crossing when the opportunity presented itself.

I had been equipped with good communication and problem solving skills in my capacity in hotel guest relations and front office management as a University graduate in the Social Sciences, with an appreciation of the importance of teamwork, work Process flow and interdependency in corporate environment. These key and basic skills facilitated my entry into aviation and my adaptation as a member of a Special Services Unit focusing on Airport Customer Care reporting directly to the CEO’s office. 

Host: This is interesting! I’m glad about the specific personal skills or soft skills you mentioned. They are still valid today. To be fair to our readers, let’s backtrack. You graduated in Social Sciences, yet you found yourself taking up a ‘Guest Relations and Front Office Manager’ position at Busua Beach Resort, without a hotel educational background? How did you get into this position and what was your experience like?

Guest: My search for a job opportunity in the daily newspaper publications as a fresh graduate, found an advertisement by Hospitality Associates, (Hotel Management Consultants) seeking first Degree University graduates and HND Holders to apply for various positions in the Hospitality Industry.

Scanning the job specifications, I was convinced that I had the potential for the Hotel Front Office Manager position, so I applied. After shortlisting and interviews, successful applicants were going to be offered 6- months intensive training in the classroom, followed by another 6 months on-the job attachment before final placement. This was a rare opportunity to build capacity for a professional career, so I embraced it by investing in time to learn.

My experience was Awesome!  I remember that the thought of relocating outside Accra to start life on my own was exciting and a good feel. For me, it presented yet another opportunity to learn another great life skill; managing one’s finances and building a culture of saving. My attachment to Anyinam Lodge in Obuasi owned by the then Ashanti Goldfields Company, managed by Hospitality Associates at the time, ‘prepped’ me up for living independently from parents and groomed me for my final placement at the Busua Beach Resort for the next 3 years.

Living and working at one of Ghana’s Finest Beach Resorts was considered by my peers and friends as quality living and a great entry into the world of work.

Host: Goodness gracious me! It’s refreshing to hear that our (Hospitality Associates) efforts made a significant impact on you. Fast forward, as a member of the SSU (Special Services Unit) at the airport, were you working with Civil Aviation Authority?

Guest: I was working with Ghana Airways, the National carrier at the time.

Host: What kind of customer challenges did you have to address as a member of SSU?

Guest:  Distressed passengers due to flight schedule disruptions or cancellations and customer complaints relating to shortfalls in service standards. 

Host: I see. So what would be the current job requirements for those dreaming of playing a similar role in the SSU?

Guest: Currently, customer care delivery is shifting towards automation and delivery through Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems. The digital approach provides efficiencies of sharing real time information directly to customers and feedback from them. So skills set in managing information systems would be a basic requirement.

Host: This is not surprising. Technology is ‘invading’ every aspect of our work environment!

 I understand the aviation industry is made up of commercial and general aviation, including airlines, aircraft manufacturing, maintenance, and associated services. Taking each at a time, give us some basic explanations about them. Let’s start with airlines.

Guest: Airlines are primarily business entities operating scheduled air transport or flights to connect passengers and cargo to cities and destinations within their route network, directly or indirectly through commercial partnerships and alliances. Airlines are highly regulated to guarantee safety and security of its operations and passengers.

Host: In other words can we describe airlines as business organizations which own and operate a fleet of vehicles in the sky, carrying passengers and/or cargo?

Guest: To a large extent, YES. However, Airlines may not own their entire fleet, some aircrafts within the fleet are leased from lessors.

Host: I see. What are the major airlines which operate within Ghana (domestic airlines) and which are the major ones flying into Ghana (international airlines)?

Guest: There are two (2) domestic airlines operating within Ghana; Africa World Airlines and Passion Air. Seventeen ( 17) International Airlines- British Airways , Qatar Airways , South African Airways ,Kenya Airways ,KLM Royal Dutch Airlines , United Airlines , Delta Airlines ,Turkish Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines , Middle East Airlines ,SN Brussels , Emirates, Air France ,Royal Air Maroc ,Egypt Air, Tap Portugal  and RwandAir.

Host: Interesting. Usually, the mention of ‘airline jobs/careers’, brings peoples’ minds to pilots and cabin crew (air hostess/or stewardess now referred to as flight attendants). What other type of career opportunities do airlines offer?

Guest: Airline Reservations and Ticketing Agents, Airline Sales and Marketing Managers and Airport Managers.

Host: What are the entry qualifications for members of the aircrew and the rest you have just mentioned?

Guest: Pilots require Commercial Pilot License, 1,500 flight hours for multiple engine Airplane and federal Communications Commission (FCC) License.

Cabin Crew: College or Senior High School education with an Ab initio training as a flight attendant to secure a license to practice.

Airline Reservations and Ticketing Agent:  Senior High School Certificate with IATA Diploma and Functional training in User application systems.

Airline Sales and Marketing Manager: General Degree and IATA Diplomas in the faculty.

Airport Manager: General Degree with IATA Airport and Passenger Handling Certificate or Diploma.

Host: This is a lot of information to ponder over.

This conversation continues next week.

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