With the World Health Organization (WHO) poised to declare Liberia an Ebola-free country by Saturday, May 9, there international airlines have already begun to show signs of confidence that Liberia is safe — and still ripe — for business.
As the Ebola outbreak escalated during August 2014, Many airlines were forced to suspend their flights to Liberia and other affected countries as part of measures to mitigate the spread of the virus outside of the affected region. With international red alerts placed on Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the most badly affected countries at the time, even Brussels Airlines — which prior to the outbreak had operated during the worst of times in Liberia — seemed to be throwing in the towel. But with some high-level intervention, driven by the need for international support to contain the outbreak, Brussels and another airline, Royal Air Maroc, stayed.
No doubt, prices ran high as throngs of expatriate workers and many Liberians booked air tickets — many times with a waiting list 4 to 6 weeks long — on either flight to anywhere but here.
As Liberia began to show steady signs of progress containing the spread of Ebola, Air Cote d'Ivoire returned to the market early 2015, followed by Kenya Airways a few months later.
In February, the cost of an air ticket from Monrovia to Accra on Air Cote d'Ivoire was over US$850, with a waiting list four weeks long. However, with Kenya Airways returning, also with a stopover in Accra, the competition appears to pull no punches.
Around mid-April, Air Cote d'Ivoire announced new prices to Accra and Lagos as low as US$332. However, latest quotes show the airliner's cheapest seates available at about US$600.
In a phone interview with the Daily Observer yesterday, Randolph Cooper, General Manager of Liberia Travel Services, iterated the law of supply and demand: "The higher the quantity of goods, the lower the price; and the higher demand of goods the cost increases," he said.
Arik Air, a Nigeria-based airline that suspended its Liberia route during the Ebola outbreak, is said to also be preparing to resume flights soon. Sources close the airline's Monrovia office however suggest a "wait-and-see" posture, perhaps pending a "free-to-fly" advisory from relevant authorities.
Liberia's completion of the 42 days of zero new Ebola cases come Saturday, May 9 is no cause for celebration, as long as Sierra Leone and Guinea still struggle to contain the virus. The threat of resurgence of the virus still exists even in Liberia, where the last Ebola victim was a woman who contracted the virus through sexual intercourse with an Ebola survivor.
Ebola Survivors — especially males — are told to refrain from sexual intercourse for at least three months.