Sierra Leone's multi-accredited emissary to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Ambassador Andrew GbebayBangali, held a consultative meeting with the Ethiopian Airlines vice president for Alliances and Corporation and Strategic Planning, YissehakZewoldi on Wednesday 21 August with an appeal for the airline to commence direct connection to Sierra Leone.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the airlines, TewoldeGerbreMariam, was represented by Mr. Zewoldi during the meeting who promised to report to his CEO on the deliberations of the consultation.The main objective of the meeting was to follow up and discuss the bilateral air services cooperation between Ethiopia and Sierra Leone with a view to taking a final decision on implementing it.
In his remarks, Ambassador Bangali gave a brief background of Sierra Leone's quest for Ethiopian Airlines to fly to Freetown since 2008, adding that he had approached the former CEO of the airline who told him that they were in shortage of air planes then.
He said that he decided to send another letter again to the authorities of the airlines due to the series of complaints he has received from government ministers and other passengers from Sierra Leone regarding the problems with Asky Airlines, in addition to the ungodly hours the latter departs Lungi Airport to connect with Ethiopian Airlines in Accra.
Due to the high flow of passengers to and from Sierra Leone, he appealed to the airlines 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.
Responding, Ethiopian Airlines' vice president for Alliances and Corporation and Strategic Planning,YissehakZewoldi, said that they will send a team to Freetown to do a feasibility and desk study, and depending on the results, they will consider commencing flights to Sierra Leone from their hub in Addis Ababa.
He said that the airlines is an African airline with a firm belief of serving the continent, and pointed out that the team, which they are going to send to Freetown, will have to do enquiries about the fuel cost, traffic and passenger flow, and hotel charges, among others.
"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, adding that "after our study, we will inform you accordingly in a couple of weeks about the results of our findings."