Tuesday, August 6, 2013

■ SIERRA LEONE: Transport Ministry pitches Freetown to Delta Airlines in bid to lure more US carriers.

Sierra LeoneSierra Leone’s Transport and Aviation Minister, Mr. Leonard Balogun Koroma, says his country has submitted all the necessary documents and information to Delta Airlines (DL) in the hopes of luring the US carrier to the capital Freetown. Delta's West African network currently consists of Dakar, Monrovia, Lagos and Accra.

Improved Lungi Airport
Improved Lungi Airport (News.sl)
In an interview with Sierra Express Media, Mr Koroma said his country has addressed various security and safety oversights at Freetown's Lungi International Airport which have now been brought up to ICAO standards as a stop gap while a new USD198million Chinese-funded international airport in Mamamah, 60km from Freetown, is built.
Lungi International airport now has fourteen Check in Counters, eight airline offices, four boarding gates, a flight information display, new baggage conveyors, fire alarms, Close Circuit Television, very modern Public Address Systems and more features. Administrative arrangements at the Airport have been re-arranged and is now consistent with International Standards. There are two terminals: Arrival and Departure with no artificial impediment to obstruct or distract passengers on arrival or departure from Lungi. Biometric data is now obtained at the Airport."
He added that screening and security had now been outsourced to a UK-based firm, Westminster Aviation Security Services.

The Minister expressed hope that more carriers, particularly American ones, would be attracted to the West African city as it would reduce travel times to the United States as well as the need to obtain transit visas.

Despite having signed an Open Skies treaty in 2012 with Sierra Leone, no US airline has yet established any routes into Freetown. In a recent statement, American Airlines (AA), set to merge with US Airways (US), says it has considered flights to Africa using Miami as a potential hub, but that any new flights would only come in the distant future.

US aviation experts state that it has always been difficult for U.S. carriers to operate to Africa, particularly parts of West Africa, where the greatest difficulty often lies in dealing with airports and their handling companies as well as finding secure places for crews to overnight in.