Monrovia — The avenues of getting in and out of Ebola-stricken Liberia has gotten slimmer with the announcement by Kenya Airways that it is suspending flights to Liberia's capital Monrovia and Sierra Leone's capital Freetown due to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
The airline was left with no alternative in the wake of immense pressure from Kenyans concerned that the airline's flights from the Ebola-hit countries could make the East African nation vulnerable to the deadly outbreak.
Delta Airline's final flight slated for August 31 would now leave SN Brussels and Royal Air Maroc as the only two airlines with service in Liberia. SN Brussels flies an Airbus A333 Brussels-Monrovia 4 times a week (Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday) with connections to other European cities, the USA and Asia via the Star Alliance network.
Royal Air Maroc flies Casablanca-Monrovia 3 times a week (Sunday, Monday and Thursday, some flights arriving next day). Connections are then available from Casablanca to a number of other locations. RAM flights arrive in Monrovia in the early hours of the morning (around 4am).
Both RAM and Brussels appear unlikely to abandon Liberia in the wake of the Ebola crisis, but airfares are likely to heighten as demand intensifies. But despite its continued service, Air Maroc has a message on its website stating that due to concerns and questions surrounding the Ebola virus, it has taken necessary measures to maximize the safety of passengers.
"In collaboration with the local health and airport authorities, we are systematically subjecting our passengers to various checks, including passing through fever detectors in some airports. This has been the case at Mohammed V airport in Casablanca since March.
In addition to the use of a "fever detector" thermal camera, a medical control procedure is in place for passengers coming from at-risk countries as soon as the alarm is raised by the world (WHO) and Moroccan health authorities to prevent the Ebola virus. A quarantine area is available for planes from at-risk countries for disinfection with each rotation," the statement says.
The airline says it has held training sessions with its on-board staff to enable them to provide assistance for passengers on board our flights. "Gloves, breathing masks, anti-bacterial gels and other hygiene products such as airtight plastic bags are available on our flights. A leaflet on what can be done to avoid the spread of the Ebola virus is currently being produced."
The airline says that despite all of its preventive measures, the likelihood of the Ebola virus spreading among passengers on-board a flight is very low according to the World Health Organization. "In fact, according to the WHO, "the virus cannot be transmitted during the incubation period before the symptoms become apparent after between 2 and 21 days".
Kenya has no joining the Nigerian carriers ASKY and ARIK, Gambia Bird, British Airways, Air Côte D'Ivoire, Air Mali, Gambia Bird and Air France which suspended flights prior to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. Kenya, in a statement said, its suspension will commence at midnight on Tuesday Aug. 19. The suspension of service by Kenya, which is partly-owned by Air France-KLM and flies a total of seven times a week to the two cities through Accra, comes as a major blow to Liberia and regular flies of Delta.
Both Kenya and Delta recently announced that they had reached an agreement on an enhanced partnership with SkyTeam partner Kenya Airways to offer convenient connecting flights between Monrovia, Liberia, and Accra, Ghana. The move was seen as a replacement of Delta, which had earlier announced suspension of service to Liberia beginning August 30.
The new services were expected to begin effective September 1, 2014, operating three times a week on a Boeing 737 aircraft operated by Kenya Airways. The Kenya Airways flight will offer seamless and convenient connections with Delta's nonstop flights between the Accra's Kotoka International Airport and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
At the time of the signing, Delta Senior Vice President for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Perry Cantarutti declared: "Delta has had a presence in Liberia for four years and we are pleased to be able to continue this association with the country through our new partnership with Kenya Airways. Delta recognizes the importance of offering services between Monrovia and the United States and we would like to thank the Liberian Government for its continued support. Delta remains committed to the country and facilitating travel to the U.S. with our Kenya Airways partner."
As part of the new arrangement, it was agreed that Delta's sales office will remain open in Liberia and continue to sell tickets to the U.S. while Delta will also continue selling tickets from the U.S. to Liberia. With Kenya exit, those plans appear to be out of play.
Kenya cited the Ebola outbreak as a key factor in its decision, noting that it took the decision based on the advice of Kenya's Ministry of Health, which is keen to prevent the importation of a case of Ebola into the country. Kenya says it will not allow passengers from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone into the country starting next Tuesday, the private Citizen Television said on its website, quoting the Minister of Health James Macharia. The World Health Organization said on Friday that the death toll from the virus in West Africa had now risen to 1,145.
Liberia was also dealt a major blow last week when its next-door neighbor, the Ivory Coast sent out a notice to all ship owners that Abidjan Port Authorities have reportedly issued an official circular to all Owners and Agents advising that beginning August 12, 2014, "NO VESSEL arriving from one of the contaminated countries is allowed to call in Abidjan until further notice. The move means that Liberia could be bracing for a major food and fuel shortage as Ivory Coast is a key transshipment point for major shipping groups.
Dwindling Flights To And From Liberia
Arik Air-- flights suspended
ASKY-- flights suspended
Kenya Airways--flights suspended
Delta---last flight 8/31/14
British Airways--flights suspended
Air Côte d'Ivoire --flights suspended
Air Mali--flights suspended
Gambia Bird-/flights suspended
Air France--stopped flights before Ebola crisis
Royal Air Maroc