The Sierra Leone Airports Authority (SLAA) is requesting government to rescind its directive by January 2022 after it complained of losing almost 35% of its revenue.
According to its Deputy General Manager, Bobson Kargbo, government issued a directive for all their charges to be reduced. “Imagine, if an entity, a performing entity, you reduce that entities revenue by 35% it’s a recipe for that entity to collapse, and, that’s exactly what is affecting us now” he said.
The instruction from government he said was given on the basis that it will stimulate more traffic, but Kargbo added that even the airlines for which they actually made that provision did not reduce the cost of their air fares.
In essence, Kargbo said it means that because they refused to reduce the cost of fares it means that the government only succeeded in taking monies from the Authority, and giving them to the airlines without any corresponding benefit.
“So, why then was that directive given to us to reduce our charges when the overriding objective to stimulate traffic has not been met?” he queried. “The cost of sustaining airport operations has over the years increased due to inflation and related factors including staff overheads.”
He also cited, instances when the government can just call the General Manager telling him that they should waive charges on a certain flight, “everything is waived, no passenger service charge or landing fee, it is depriving us of the much needed resources in order for us to sustain our operations” he explained.
The government he said also imposed domestic and external embargoes on marine and agricultural products thereby compromising the Authority’s drive to transform the Freetown International Airport (FNA) into a hub for the transhipment of cargo, which was the main reason why they constructed the new cargo complex.
The revenue generated is barely enough to meet the Authority’s compelling and statutory commitments, a situation he said has been further compromised by the emergence of COVID-19 and that is why they are asking that NaCOVERC operations gives the Authority $15 for each arriving passenger because they have created the enabling environment for them to carry out their operations.
The country he said has the lowest traffic in the region with maximum of nine flights coming to Freetown with only three or four arriving on a daily basis compared to Ghana which has over 65 flight operations per day. In 2019, there were only 240,000 passengers in and out whilst Ghana he says have 1.7 million passengers the same year, thereby limiting the revenue generating potential of the Authority.
Awoko reports that He hoped that FNA will successfully go through the Universal Safety Audit and Aerodrome Certification in 2022 to attract additional airlines to the Freetown routes. All the factored airlines will maintain their frequencies and sustain operations throughout 2022.