Saturday, April 13, 2013

► SIERRA LEONE: Leone Airways, the Arik Air-partnered initiative, hoping to start operations come June.

Arik AirLeone Airways, the new Sierra Leonian national carrier formed out of a partnership with Arik Air(W3), Nigeria's largest carrier, and the government of Sierra Leone is to tentatively commence operations in June this year. Under the partnership deal signed in 2011,  Arik will provide the carrier with its initial fleet and technical skills and comes about from the airline's close relationship with Freetown after in 2009 it was designated "the national carrier of Sierra Leone", thereby allowing it to ply the Freetown - London route. 

Sierra Leone Airways Britten-Norman  Trislander in 1982
Sierra Leone Airways Britten-Norman
Trislander in 1982 (P Aragao)
According to Nigerian press reports, with a planned June launch date, Leone Airways will operate domestic, regional and international flights with Freetown - London flights already on the cards using Arik equipment initially. Arik is also aiding Ivorian national carrier Air Cote d'Ivoire (HF) in expanding its regional route network.

Chairman of Arik Air, Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide, confirmed the development:
"There is Leone Airways that is starting. We are technical partners to Leon Airways and we will be flying from Freetown to London. Of course they too will be flying to some of the West Africa destinations. We are having serious discussion with Air Cote d'Ivoire as partners. So while we are not making a lot of success in Nigeria because we are not getting a lot of support and recognition, others appreciate what we are doing," he said.
 Source [ThisDay]

The Sierra Leone government's previous initiative, Sierra National Airlines (LJ), collapsed under bankruptcy in late 2004 despite under going restructuring and planning to resume scheduled flights between Amsterdam and London Gatwick and Freetown International Airport, Lungi in December 2004, leaving the country with no home-grown designated national operator. Recent private players have included Fly6ix (6I), founded in 2010 by the UK-based MediCall Group of companies, who went out of business in 2011.