The Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority (SLCAA) has yesterday engaged NaCOVERC, Board of Airlines Representatives (BAR) and the 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 Director-General Moses Tiffa Baio averred that the implementation of some COVID-19 measures at the Freetown International Airport has negatively affected the travelling public.
“When passengers are tested positive for COVID-19, they will have challenges with their tickets to change 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.”
The DG furthered that stakeholders should not look at the technicalities surrounding the process of changing tickets, but rather at the best interest of the travelling public who are the consumers of their products.
“Yes, the implementation of some of these health protocol guidelines has negatively affected the travelling public and citizens are crying out loud.”
DG Tiffa Baio called on stakeholders to develop a travel bulletin to give to passengers who test positive for COVID-19, as it will further guide them as to the next step. He encouraged them to also embark on massive public education which he said would help address the many concerns from the travelling public.
“Since the reopening 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.”
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 victimised by such unfortunate situations.
The Hon. Minister expressed NaCOVERC’s thankfulness for the collaboration in the aviation industry since the reopening of the airport, and their readiness to give the necessary support to the industry.
Responding on behalf of BAR, Estelle Van Eeckhout from Brussels Airlines 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 said 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.”
Estelle ended by calling on passengers to immediately inform the airlines or travel agents from which they purchased their tickets once they test positive for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, SLATA’s Interim Chairman John E. Rogers assured stakeholders that he would communicate the outcome of the meeting to their 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.”
The meeting resolved that passengers who test positive should immediately call their airlines and inform them so that arrangements can be made for a reservation after the mandatory 14 days quarantine.
By Mohamed Bah