The Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority (SLCAA) has yesterday engaged NaCOVERC, Board of Airlines Representatives (BAR) and Sierra Leone Association of Travel Agents (SLATA) on the implementation of the health protocol guidelines for seamless operations at the Freetown International Airport (FNA).
SLCAA’s Director-General, Moses Tiffa Baio, in his address expressed that the implementation of some of the COVID-19 measures at the Freetown International Airport has negatively affected the traveling public.
“When passengers are tested positive for Covid-19, they will have challenges with their tickets changed to another date either by the Airlines or Travel Agents. Most of these passengers also do forfeit their tickets for failure to pay additional cost” DG Baio said.
The DG further mentioned that stakeholders should not look at the technicalities surrounding the process of changing tickets, rather, the best interest of the travelling public who are the consumers of their products.
“Yes, the implementation of some of these health protocol guidelines have negatively affected the travelling public and citizens are crying out loud,” he lamented.
DG Baio called on stakeholders to develop a travel bulletin to give to passengers who are tested positive of COVID-19, as it will further guide them as to next step in an event they are tested positive of the virus. He further encouraged stakeholders to also embark on massive public education which he believed would help address the many concerns from the travelling public.
“Since the re-opening of the airport in July 2020, we have been doing very well within the sub-region and the Government is very much pleased with the collaboration within the Aviation Industry,”* DG Baio ended.
Representing NaCOVERC, the Deputy Minister of Social Welfare Hon. Mohamed Haji-Kella, who also doubles as the Psycho-Social Pillar Lead at NaCOVERC, started by sharing stories of passengers who are victims of this unfortunate situation.
The Hon Minister expressed that NaCOVERC was very much thankful for the collaboration within the Aviation Industry since the re-opening of the airport, and they were ready to give the necessary support to the Industry.
Responding on behalf of the BAR, Estelle Van Eeckhout from Brussels Airline revealed that there were more flexible tickets that could be changed free of charge and those not so flexible.
She furthered that Airlines did have an integrated revenue management system that was automated and controlled by their different head offices, and that changing those tickets was not as easy as passengers would think.
“When passengers are asked to pay a certain sum for a ticket that has been issued, it is not the change fee but rather the fare difference for the available seat as the case may be. This fare regime is the same for all airlines. Some tickets can only be changed by the travel agents through whom they were purchased” she maintained.
Estelle ended by calling on passengers to immediately inform the Airlines or the Travel Agents from which they purchased their tickets once they have been tested positive of COVID-19.
On the side of SLATA, the Interim Chairman, John E Rogers assured stakeholders that he would communicate the outcome of the meeting to the entire membership and would ask travel agents to display the health protocol guidelines on their notice boards for ease of reference.
“At the moment, we are also trying to have a hotline so that passengers can call should there be any challenge with their tickets thereafter,” he disclosed.
The meeting resolved that Passengers testing positive should immediately call their Airline and inform, so that arrangement would be made for a reservation after the mandatory 14 days quarantine.