18 June 2014

Liberia: Why Air France Quit On Liberia - Unable to Break Even, Poor Loading

Photo: wikipedia
A Delta airliner.

Monrovia — Air France's decision to end its biweekly flights to Liberia is being attributed to little profit margins on its Monrovia route, FrontPageAfrica has learned.

Air France has endured a turbulent run in Liberia. In 2012, poor and dilapidated runaway at the Roberts International Airport inflicted damage on an AF752 which caused a rugged landing with damage set at almost a half a million dollars. The forced landing Plane's bottom right, main landing gear, hydraulic holes, brakes, and right main landing gear axle assembly ruined during a landing mishap. Perhaps the incident sparked the writing on the wall for the airline amid reports that Air France Airlines was contemplating ending its route to Liberia.

FPA citing aviation sources in Monrovia, reported recently that the airline was shutting down its Liberia route. Now a letter in possession of FPA offers for the first time a clearer picture of why the airline is calling it quits on the post-war nation.

Mr. Jean Raoul Tauzin, Regional Director for West Africa, in a communication to Mr. Abraham T. Simmons, General Manager for the Roberts International Airport, said the lack of profit made it difficult for the airline to continue flying its Liberia route. "Since the start of Air France's operation 3 years ago, we were unable to break even due to poor load factors in/from Monrovia. Suitable options were looked into on how best to bring the route into profitability within the short term, which unfortunately were not satisfactory enough," said Tauzin.

The airline regional chief however left a window open for a possible return to Liberia. "Air France sadly had to take the decision to suspend the operations. However, Liberia will be kept in our scope of interest for resumption of the flight as son as the conditions of profitable operations can be met."

The decision, according to the communication from Tauzin was reached following a meeting held in Monrovia on April 3rd, 2014 with Mr. Frank Legre, Senior Vice President Air France-KLM Africa Division, Mr. Axel Metselaar, Regional Manager, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

During that meeting, the RIA was reportedly informed about Air France's decision to end its Liberia route, with the cutoff date set for Tuesday, June 17th, 2014. The date now expired, means passengers will no longer be able to fly the airlines in or out of Monrovia.

The Air France-320 offering 208 seats commenced service to Liberia on April 20, 2011.

Air France, which started operations in 1937 and flew its first flight in 1947 is the second international airline that begun direct flights to Liberia. The U.S based Delta Airline was the first to begin direct flights from America and Europe to Liberia in 2010. More recently, British Airways commenced flights out of Liberia.

In September 2010, Delta Air Lines Inc. launched flights from the U.S. to Liberia, becoming the first American carrier to serve the West African nation that is recovering from more than a decade of civil war. Delta currently flies thrice weekly between Monrovia and Delta's hub in Atlanta with a stop in Accra, Ghana.

Before the outbreak of the conflict, major airlines like Pan American World Airways, Air France and even the Concorde flew directly to Liberia. The country was shattered during 11 years of on-and-off fighting starting with a 1989 civil war led by Charles Taylor.

Air France, a French flag carrier is one of the largest airlines in the world and is a subsidiary of the Air France-KLM Group and a founding member of the SkyTeam global airline alliance. As of 2010, the airline operates worldwide scheduled passenger and cargo services to 151 destinations in 91 countries including Liberia.

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