Monday, February 13, 2012

Kenya Airways Passengers in Freetown Stranded

Hundreds of Kenya Airways passengers are stranded in Sierra Leone and Liberia as a result of bad weather condition.
Hazy conditions, which have severely affected visibility levels within the past few days, are causing ripples in the aviation industry in Freetown and Monrovia, with airlines having to put up with increasing cost of accommodating stranded passengers.
But Kenya Airways appears to be making the headlines more in Freetown after two of its flights were prevented from landing at Freetown's Lungi International Airport last Tuesday.
The problem started when one of the flights, which was scheduled to land at Lungi, was diverted to Monrovia's Roberts International Airport in neighbouring Liberia before being redirected to Accra.
A second flight could not land in either neighbouring countries and had to return to Accra, from where both had come en route from Nairobi.
"The difference is safety standard," said Robert Kiproto, Kenya Airways Country Manager for both Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Mr Kiproto said Kenya Airways is not the only affected airline but that they give the safety of their passengers an utmost precedence, hence the decision not "to take any chance" when the weather condition does not satisfy them.
About 145 passengers, including Kenyans, Ghanaians, Americans, Ugandans and other citizens, are stranded at the Lungi Airport, of whom 73 were said to be headed for Nairobi.
At the Roberts International Airports in Monrovia, 135 passengers are also stranded.
The first flight last Tuesday circled on Lungi before been forced to go to Liberia where, despite similar hash weather conditions, it managed to land.
Since Sierra Leone's only airport is in the outskirts of the capital, and given the difficulty in travelling through the estuary that links it to the mainland, many passengers are forced to stay at the airport in such situation.
This makes the problem of accommodation, feeding and other arising issues a little problematic.
Last Thursday, the entire senior management of the Freetown office of Kenya Airways spent the whole day at the Lungi Airport working a way out.
"Even now I can be required to go at anytime," Mr Kiproto said in an interview on Friday.
Some stranded passengers at Lungi who spoke to journalists complained of expensive food and accommodation problems.
But Mr Kiproto maintained that the airline couldn't be responsible for passengers before they board their planes. And in this case, the passengers are still at home.
Nonetheless, passengers on the two stranded flights in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, where been taken care of by the airlines, which the Kenya Airways Freetown boss said was costing them huge money.
The sad thing, however, is that there doesn't seem to be an end in sight of the problem.
"It all depends on the weather condition. We can tell the passengers to go home now and the weather gets clear or we can tell them to come and it gets bad again," he said.