Thursday, August 29, 2013

► SIERRA LEONE: Freetown now pitching to Ethiopian in the hopes of establishing direct flights to Addis Ababa.

The West African nation of Sierra Leone has taken its aviation road show to Ethiopia where the Sierra Leonean Ambassador to Ethiopia, Mr Andrew Gbebay Bangali, has held talks with Ethiopian Airlines (ET) vice president for Alliances and Corporation and Strategic Planning, Mr Yissehak Zewoldi, regarding the possibility of direct flights between Addis Ababa and Freetown. 

ASKY Airlines' West African network (ASKY)
According to The Concord Times, the meeting also discussed the possible finalization of a bilateral air services agreement between the two countries which would pave the way for flights to begin. Ethiopian's West African subsidiary,  ASKY Airlines (KP), does serve the Sierra Leonian capital from its Lome, Togo hub, albeit in tandem with Accra, Banjul and Monrovia.

Due to the high flow of passengers to and from Sierra Leone, Mr Bangali appealed to the airline's executives to consider flying to Sierra Leone via any route or routes of their choice.
"With the mining sector booming now in Sierra Leone, there is a high inflow of expatriate workers from the South African Development Community (SADC) into the country plus businessmen and women going to Dubai and China who fly on Ethiopian Airlines to buy their goods," he noted.
Neighbouring Guinea has also managed to leverage its booming aluminium industry to lure in Emirates (EK) with an upcoming 4x weekly service to Conakry via Dakar, lending some credence to Mr Bangali's claims.

In response, Mr Zewoldi said Ethiopian would send a team to Freetown for a feasibility and desk study, and depending on the results, they would consider commencing flights to Sierra Leone.
"We have to look again into the technical issues, if we are flying beyond Lagos in the West Coast, the aircraft has to spend a night in Freetown and we have to look into all those costs," he said.
Freetown's intra-African connectivity is limited to Kenya Airways (KQ), Royal Air Maroc (AT), Gambia Bird (3G),  and Arik Air (W3).

However, Ethiopian isn't the only airline on Freetown's shopping list; Sierra Leone’s Transport and Aviation Minister, Mr. Leonard Balogun Koroma, recently announced his country had submitted all the necessary documents and information to Delta Airlines (DL) in the hopes of luring the US carrier to the capital Freetown.