Though officials at the Liberia Airport Authority are yet to comment on circumstances that may have led to breakdown in negotiation with the Dutch Airline, KLM and its subsequent pull out here, we think the pull out is a missed opportunity. The airline shouldn’t have left the country in the first place.
Whatever offer and demand the Liberian government might have brought on the table, we think there should have been enough room for flexibility, because KLM, like DELTA and other western airlines had been long time partners of Liberia.
This paper gathered that KLM pulled out as a result of disagreement on landing fees being charged per flight. The Government of Liberia reportedly increased fare to boost revenue with the Liberia Revenue Authority or LRA requesting 10 percent on every air ticket sold, and 4.0 going to the LAA Management.
Truth of the matter is, taxes in Liberia are very high compared with neighboring countries. Perhaps even worse, Liberia lost the air traffic market as a result of 14 years of bloody civil war that grounded all economic activities, and diverted most business activities to neighboring countries.
More than a decade after restoration of peace and democratic governance, the nation’s air transport services – both local and international are yet to regain pre-war status, let along modernize to get on par with its neighbors.
Right next door in Guinea, air transport service is 24/7, not to talk about Ghana or Ivory Coast. Liberia’s Roberts International Airport is still struggling to facelift, thanks to the People’s Republic of China, which is constructing a modern terminal.
Even up to now, an aerial view of the RIA, especially when landing here does not present an atmosphere of hope for a country that has enjoyed relative peace and stability in more than a decade, which should indicate that we need support of all well-intentioned business partners on our way to national recovery, development and economic growth.
Lest we forget, the air transport industry is very crucial in revising our economy, because it provides the gateway to not only interacting with friends from abroad, but availing this country’s rich natural resources to the outside world for investment opportunities.
And so, we believe very strongly that nothing whatsoever should be done to disengage with potential investors such as KLM and others, for we need them in achieving the government’s much heralded Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development. We can’t achieve the PAPD along as a government.
Consequently, we see the sudden departure of KLM airline as a serious missed opportunity to boost our air transport industry, which has never recovered fully in terms of number of airlines flying here since the end of hostility and restore of democratic governance. Currently with only Kenya Airway, Royal Air Morac and Air Brussels connecting Liberia to Europe and the rest of the world, we need more partners such as KLM that had been in the country before. The government should not tax this sector out of existence.