Liberia: Air France Pullout Likely, Transport Minister Due from Paris Today After Last-Ditch Talks


MONROVIA – The Minister of Transport, Samuel Wlue, is returning from France today – a trip that as aimed at ensuring that Air France, a daily airliner to Liberia, does not pullout, but the pullout is still likely that it would happen anyway.

The French airliner is reportedly cutting off Liberia as of March 28 due to poor quality of services at the Roberts International Airport which include dark runway, lack of electricity at the airport and bad jet fuel being supplied – all of which put the planes at passengers at risk.

These challenges faced by the airline in Liberia has been compounded by the crisis in Mali. The Airline’s service to Liberia was a continuation of its service to Mali.

According to source, the airline’s operation in Liberia is not viable without Mali.

In January, Air France left hundreds of passengers stranded at the RIA for two days in a row due technical faults on the plane and the poor quality of jet fuel.

The airline, reportedly had to fly to neighboring Ivory Coast for refueling. Brussels was also forced to move its check-in time two hours ahead to make room for an early departure that will enable refueling in the Ivory Coast.

Air France resumed flights to Monrovia and Paris Charles de Gaulle with a seven-day flights to the country transiting through Bamako, Mali.

Air France KLM suspended flights to and from Mali as of Jan. 13.  This was in accordance with the decision of the French authorities. It remains unclear how long the measure will remain in place. The measure follows recent sanctions imposed but the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the Malian government. The sanctions included the closure of land and air borders of its member states with Mali.

The flights to Mali facilitated the resumption of daily flights to Liberia which was ended in 2015 when the airline used to fly bi-weekly to Liberia.

The airline had endured a turbulent run in Liberia.

In 2012, poor and dilapidated runaway at the Roberts International Airport inflicted damage on an AF752 which caused a rugged landing with damage set at almost a half a million dollars.

The forced landing Plane’s bottom right, main landing gear, hydraulic holes, brakes, and right main landing gear axle assembly ruined during a landing mishap. Perhaps the incident sparked the writing on the wall for the airline amid reports that Air France Airlines was contemplating ending its route to Liberia.

At the time Air France took its exit, the RIA’s runway was in poor condition and needed work.

In 2013, Sirleaf acknowledged that the country was in desperate need of upgrading its international airport to meet international standards after aviation advisors cautioned that the airport could lose flights due to the poor state of its runway and its inadequately trained staff.

The Sirleaf administration made the upgrade of the RIA a priority toward the end of her term in office, resulting in the construction of a new terminal.

However, the management of the new airport has been the latest challenge posed to the aviation sector. In late February, Royal Maroc had to abruptly abort a landing at the RIA due to sudden blackout on the runway and the control towers.