MTA Hosts the National Air Transport Facilitation Committee

08th February, 2021

Youyi Building, 7th Floor

Ministry of Transport and Aviation (MTA) on Monday hosted the National Air Transport Facilitation Committee to discuss issues surrounding the passenger experience on arrival at the Freetown International Airport.

The main purpose of the meeting was to review the travel process at the Arrival Hall of the Freetown International Airport (FNA), identify gaps and bring out suggestions to address the gaps highlighted. 

The Minister of Transport and Aviation, Hon. Kabineh Kallon, in his remarks, revealed that government was concerned about the state of affairs on the facilitation process implemented at the Freetown International Airport Lungi, adding that there were few concerns from the travelling public which, he believed, the committee should address.

“Since the reopening of the airport, I am pleased to inform you all that government is satisfied with the collaboration and cooperation between NaCOVERC and the Aviation Industry Stakeholders. The passenger processing on the arrival at FNA has posed very serious challenges for which we consider it as a cause for concern, which has the tendency to mitigate our desire to fly in or out of the country,” the Minister said. 

The Hon. Minister ended by calling on the committee to provide solutions to these problems and see how they could make the Air Transport Sector attractive and lively once again.

Giving the overview of the National Air Transport Facilitation Committee, the SLCAA Director-General, Moses Tiffa Baio noted that the National Air Transport Facilitation Programme was from our national laws, which was also a transposition from Annex 9 of the Chicago Convention of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

“Principally, this talks about the expeditious movement of passengers in and out of the Freetown International Airport. But then, the emergence of COVID-19 has added another burden on the travelling public which is something we are not averse to some of the stringent measures that have been implemented as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. What other airports are trying to do is to make sure that passengers travelling to different destinations do not experience more air travel ordeals,” DG Baio observed.

DG Baio further stated that the Aviation Industry was struggling to get people back to flying and the committee’s primary focus should basically look at some of the public health measures implemented at the airport.

“Specifically, we are looking at the arrival process from the moment passengers disembark from the aircraft go through the health protocol, the additional screening is done by SECURIPORT, Immigration, Customs, NaCOVERC and onto the last point in crossing over to Freetown without compromising the health protocols put in place, we need to see how best we can address some of these concerns from the travelling public,” the DG said.

DG Baio reaffirmed that the Civil Aviation Authority was charged with the responsibility of implementing Annex 9 of the Chicago Convention of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). He concluded by admitting the Aviation Industry was glad that the issue of collecting passports from arriving passengers had been rescinded.

On the side of NaCOVERC, Col. Hassan Coomber, Operations Pillar Lead disclosed that they have been doing fine in terms of COVID-19 restrictions even though there is still a need for improvement. “We have taken off the inter-district restriction, as well as giving access to all passengers travelling through the airport,” Col. Coomber stated.

Col. Coomber also expressed there had been overcrowding at the airport and this, according to NaCOVERC, is an alarming concern for the transmission of the virus. Based on this worrying development, he added, NaCOVERC had been engaging key stakeholders on the need to have a seamless process at the airport.

Representing the Sierra Leone Airport Authority (SLAA), the Deputy General Manager, Bobson Kargbo informed the Committee on the introduction of key health measures implemented at the airport to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. the Deputy GM added: “We have made it mandatory to wear a face mask at the airport. We have also installed handwashing facilities within the airport. We will also be embarking on massive public education to inform the travelling public about the health protocols that have been put in place.”

On behalf of the Board of Airlines Representative (BAR), Estelle Van Eeckhout from Brussels Airlines confirmed the airport’s congestion, adding that: “For the passenger Health Locator Forms (HLF), some Airlines do give it onboard the aircraft but we have noticed that the information they fill on the HLF is the same with what they filled on the travel portal,” Estelle said.

The committee resolved that the SECURIPORT data collection system be merged with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation DHIS 2 system, to mitigate the duplication of data collection at the airport.

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