Murtala Mohamed Kamara: Siera Leone Telegraph: 6 October 2023:
As someone who frequently travels internationally from Sierra Leone, I understand the limited flight options and high ticket prices that travellers often face. In addition to these challenges, there is an added cost of $25 in cash for security fees at the airport, making air travel even more expensive.
Furthermore, the inconvenience of travelling to the airport in Port Loko, outside the capital of Freetown, and the additional $40 for water taxis and local ferries can be burdensome.
Currently, there are five international airlines operating in Sierra Leone, with Air France possibly discontinuing its operations. These airlines include Turkish Airways, Air France, Air Senegal, Brussels Airlines, and Kenya Airways.
Having personally flown with all five airlines, I recently experienced a journey with Air Senegal from Freetown to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and would like to provide a brief review of my experience.
Air Senegal operates four weekly flights from Freetown, beginning with a smaller plane to Banjul International Airport in Gambia to pick up passengers, before continuing to Blaise Diagne Airport in Senegal for a transit time of 3 to 4 hours. From there, passengers board another flight for an 8-hour journey to New York.
The flight from Freetown to Banjul was pleasant, lasting less than 2 hours and 45 minutes. The cabin crew, primarily made up of African staff, exhibited a great level of service. The flight itself was comfortable, and passengers were provided with a sandwich, a small bottle of Senegalese-produced water, and a choice of juice.
The subsequent flight from Senegal to JFK was operated by a Boeing aircraft with a seating capacity of over 100 passengers. It offered inflight entertainment with a selection of movies. The service on this leg of the journey was commendable, and I particularly enjoyed the meat, which had a distinct flavour.
Unlike other airlines, Air Senegal provided a bottle of water with meals without the need for a request. They served meals twice during the flight, and the coffee was also quite enjoyable.
While I expected to see more African cabin crew members, most of them were Europeans, with a small number of Senegalese ladies. Nevertheless, the crew was hospitable and provided excellent service. The inflight entertainment, however, lacked options for Senegalese content.
Considering Senegal’s rich arts and cultural scene, it would be beneficial to include more Senegalese music and videos on the inflight screens.
One notable advantage of Air Senegal is its affordable fares compared to its competitors. Additionally, the airline offers faster transit times to New York, with a direct 8-hour flight from Senegal, unlike other airlines that may require longer layovers.
I recently travelled with another airline and had to endure a 16-hour transit period, which was quite inconvenient.
Furthermore, the early morning arrival at JFK Airport allowed for a smoother immigration process and less traffic in New York City. Overall, Air Senegal offers a good flight experience.
About the author
Murtala Mohamed Kamara is a journalist and the publisher of SaloneJamboree, Sierra Leone’s leading Arts and entertainment newspaper. He is also the founder of Salone Adventures, a travel and tourism website. Kamara, a travel enthusiast, adventurer, enjoys sharing his experiences. He also report for German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle.