Air France has returned to Liberia five years after shutting down its Liberia operation as a result of low profit margins.
The airline’s return, which the Liberian government has described as an affirmation of deepening relations between France and Liberia, comes at a time when the country’s economy is faced with lots of uncertainty with a 1.6% growth rate this year after declining to 0.4% in 2019.
So it has yet to be seen if the company will stay in the midst of an economic contraction and decline – a situation that led to the close of Air France Liberia operation in 2014.
The return of Air France adds to a growing list of international carriers the government has been courting as it improves on airport infrastructure, while creating the conditions necessary to ensure the Monrovia route becomes a go-to destination.
According to Air France’s Senior Vice President Henri Hourcade, the resumption of service by the French national flag carrier is aimed at reinforcing the business and friendship between the two countries, as well as the promotion of tourism and culture.
“By connecting Monrovia to Paris and the rest of the world, Air France aims to support Liberia’s economic dynamism. Needless to say, business opportunities with Liberia are great and that Air France will be there to back them.
Hourcade argued that the Air France Monrovia-to-Paris route offers very promising prospects since the airline will facilitate travels and enable international companies “to expand their presence, activity and exchange with Liberian partners.”
Hourcade added that, as a company, they believe in Liberia’s tourism opportunities “offered by the exceptional diversity of heritage as well as beautiful natural sites.
The French carrier left Liberia in 2014, not just for low profit margins, but the bad nature of the runway at Monrovia’s Roberts International Airport, RIA. Moreover, the outbreak of Ebola in Liberia and other West African countries at the time saw acute restrictions on air travel in and out of affected countries in the sub-region.
Earlier, in 2012, the poor and dilapidated runaway at the RIA inflicted damage on an AF752 aircraft, which caused a rugged landing with damage amounting to almost half a million U.S. dollars.
A year later, in 2013, former President Ellen Johnson 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 its air traffic due to the poor condition of its runway and its inadequately trained staff.
At the end, the Sirleaf administration made the upgrade of the airport a priority toward the end of her term in office which resulted to the construction of a new terminal.
In brief remarks, President George Weah expressed the Liberian Government’s appreciation and delight when Hourcade paid him a courtesy call. The Liberian Leader said with his strong ties to France, bilateral relations between the two countries will only get better. “France has done a lot for me and with the commitment from Air France that it is here for the foreseeable future, says a lot of the goodness of the French People,” President Weah said.
As flights commence, Air France will fly times to Monrovia on Airbus A330-300 with a capacity of 224 seats (36 in Business, 21 in Premium Economy and 167 in Economy class).
According to the airliner, it will serve Monrovia as a continuation of service to Bamako (Mali) on Mondays and Thursdays, and directly on Tuesdays and Fridays before joining Bamako.