The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 August 2014
Gambia Bird Airlines – one of the few airlines flying to Sierra Leone, yesterday announced that it is suspending all flights to Monrovia and Freetown, starting last night – Friday, 15th August 2014, until the 31st August 2014.
The company says that the decision was taken “in the light of international concern about the further spread of the Ebola virus in the West African sub-region, and with the aim of continuing to offer a safe and reliable service to all customers, whilst also protecting the health and well-being of passengers and crew”.
Last week, British Airways and other airlines suspended all flights to both countries, with severe economic consequences, the extent of which is yet to be counted.
Gambia Bird is the most popular airline for Sierra Leoneans travelling to and from the country, offering very competitive prices, as well as offering excellent value for money and good customer service.
In a statement published yesterday, the company says that; “Flights to both destinations are planned to resume on 1st September 2014 as scheduled. Therefore, tickets for flights after the 31st August 2014 remain valid, and all passengers affected by flight cancellations will be fully refunded for their tickets.”
Two weeks ago – Saturday, 2nd August 2014, a female passenger on board Gambia Bird Airlines flight from Freetown, became unwell upon arrival at London Gatwick Airport, and later died in hospital, after tests concluded she was not carrying the Ebola virus.
Following that scare, Gambia Bird Airlines said that it is working closely with the public health and aviation authorities throughout West Africa, in the UK and internationally to take every possible precaution against allowing passengers who may exhibit symptoms of Ebola infection from boarding its aircraft.
“We will continue to act on the advice of the relevant authorities and our procedures remain under constant review”, the company said two weeks ago.
Yesterday’s announcement to suspend flight to Sierra Leone and Liberia must have come on the back of that Ebola review.
It says that; “Gambia Bird Airlines’ services between other West African destinations within its network, as well as those between London-Gatwick and Banjul and between Barcelona and Banjul, remain unaffected.”
“Gambia Bird Airlines apologises for any inconvenience and seeks the understanding of all affected passengers that, in such an unclear and fast-changing situation, safe and reliable operations to and from Sierra Leone and Liberia cannot be guaranteed for the next two weeks.
“However, Gambia Bird Airlines hereby confirms its commitment to Sierra Leone and Liberia and will recommence its flights to Freetown and Monrovia as soon as circumstances allow. Therefore, Gambia Bird Airlines will maintain its strong relationships with all aviation stakeholders in Sierra Leone and Liberia in order to limit the impact of these flight changes as much as possible.”
More than 600 people have died of the Ebola virus in both Liberia and Sierra Leone, since the outbreak a few months ago.
According to WHO, the fight against controlling this deadly virus in West Africa, will take at least six months.