Air France Director General of Africa Richard Honigsberg has said they are delighted to start operations again in Sierra Leone after a 10 month suspension. He made this statement yesterday at the Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko hotel.
Mr Honigsberg said it was very disappointing for them to suspend flights to Sierra Leone because it has been one of their best African route. “We had to suspend flights because of the instructions from medical authorities, even though we had provided the logistics to make the Lungi airport safe, it was not enough as the medical authorities in Paris said we must suspend all flights.”
He said they were monitoring the situation all along and they were eager to re-start as soon as the situation has improved. “Even though there are still some pockets of ebola across the country, the government has done a lot to stabilise and eradicate it from the land. So it is because of all what the government has done that prompted us to re-start our schedules once again.”
The Director General said he came two months ago to analyse the situation on the ground and he met with the Minister of Transport and travel agencies and the report he had was fantastic which gave them the urgency to kick-start their operations. “We were planning to start in September, which would have been smooth and all modalities put in place as well as allow the peak period to have passed or start in June, however, we came to the conclusion to start now to send the message to the Sierra Leone government that Air France wants to be part of the recovery process in the country.”
The first flight landed on Tuesday at 15.40 at the Lungi Airport and onboard were the Minister of Transport Leonard Balogun Koroma and the Ambassador to Belgium and France Amb. Ibrahim Sorie. “I promised them that the first flight back to Sierra Leone, they will be onboard.”
Mr Honigsberg said when the plane landed they had a short ceremony at the airport where short speeches were given by him, the Minister, Airport Authority boss and Amb. Ibrahim Sorie. He said he told the passengers and officials that Air France is back and they will continue to support the government in the fight against the virus and also make sure the airport is safe for all to use.”
The Director General said he believes ebola will soon become a thing of the past in Sierra Leone and Air France will support the government in that direction, because the recommencing of their operations will definitely ease the travelling of officials to and from Sierra Leone. “Air France has a strong connection with passengers from Lebanon, China, the US and UK and we believe we will continue to work with them as we have started again.”
He also averred that the business potential in Sierra Leone was another cause for them to re-start operations as they want to make sure that these people can travel easily to Sierra Leone always.
When asked about the safety measures onboard, the Director General said the first line of defence is on the ground where all the mechanisms have been put in place to make sure that passengers don’t board a flight when they are sick.
“Onboard our flights, our staff are given all the protective clothing and trained very well how to handle emergencies. Also there will be an isolation area prepared in case of any emergency.”
He said they will be operating three flights a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and their departure time from Paris is 11.10 am and they will arrive Lungi at 15.40. The route now he says is Paris Freetown Conakry Paris.
Mr Richard Honigsberg was accompanied by Henri Ledoux, the Director of Air France Mano River Union, the Country Manager of Sierra Leone Goran Boajovic and Madam Rugiatu Kamara-Bientz.
Thursday July 02, 2015