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Tourism minister says flight cancellations not triggered by Securiport

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By Omar Bah

The minister of tourism Hamat Bah has said the cancellation of summer flights to Banjul is not triggered by the increment of securiport fees at the airport.

On Tuesday, Air France and Air Portugal announced the cancellation of all flights to The Gambia in the summer without advancing any reason, leaving critics of the government to point at the airport’s expensive security fees.

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But reacting to the announcement yesterday on Coffee Time on West radio, Minister Bah said: “Air Portugal notified us about the cancellation and we have since contacted them and had a discussion with them and they were honest to say they are moving during the summer because the Banjul route is not profitable but they will come back.”

He said several discussions were held between all stakeholders before the airport security fees were increased.

Minister Bah revealed that his ministry has recently participated in the Lisbon Tourism Trade Fair and that gave them the opportunity to discuss with all the top players in the aviation industry in Portugal.

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“We had fruitful discussions with some of them and hopefully we will have new flights coming to the Gambia,” he said.

In the case of Air France, the minister exlained: “We have written to them two letters asking them to explain the decision, what they want and why they are suspending their flights in the summer but they have not responded until this moment. But I believe it has to do with issues of profitability.”

Minister Bah said in 2017, the then French president Hollanda told a delegation led by president Barrow that Air France is a private company and operates based on profitability.

“So, I believe the decision for them to suspend their flights is related to the lack of profit. Also, you should realise that the Gambia is under sanctions from the European Union and because of this, Gambian citizens find it difficult now to travel to EU countries and that has reduced the number of volumes,” he said.

He said the president has started some engagements with regards to the visa sanctions.

“But we are also conscious about the right of our citizens to exhaust all legal ramification in the countries where they are before they are accepted back,” he said.

Minister Bah added: “We looking forward to receiving extra flights in the coming winter from two operators in the Czech Republic and Poland. We are now discussing with them to put up another extra flight for this summer and we are also contacting others.” 

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