The perpetual difficulties facing travelers by air in the sub-region, and The Gambia in particular, will soon be a thing of the past with the coming of Inter Continental Airways into the country’s aviation industry. The Gambian registered airline on Saturday made a maiden flight to the Liengi International Airport, Freetown, marking its official inauguration. The Nigerian High Commissioner to The Gambia, Her Excellency Esther John Audu, the Outgoing Sierra Leonean High Commissioner, His Excellency Mohamed Foday Yumkelia, the Director General of The Gambia Civil Aviation Authority, Fansu Bojang, the Chief Executive Co-ordinating Officer Inter Continental Airways, Captain Henry Ogunyemi, Senior officials of the Airline and the Nigerian Embassy in Banjul, Senior GCM officials, friends and well wishers made the historic trip to Freetown on board the 117 passenger flight.
Speaking on the occasion, the High Commissioner, Esther John Audu, thanked Almighty Allah for the day “saying it’s a dream come true. She commended the Gambian government for partnering with her country in this international flight. She also thanked the government of Sierra Leone for allowing the first landing to take place there. She hoped the company will help promote bilateral and multilateral relations in the region as well as economic development. High Commissioner Audu congratulated her Sierra Leonean counterpart and all those on board the maiden flight for the historic event. She prayed that Almighty Allah might bless the Airline and its staff as well as for its growth and sustenance for posterity. She used the occasion to call on the general public to fully support the airline by patronising it.
The outgoing Sierra Leonean High Commissioner Mohamed Foday Yumkelia also thanked Allah for helping the owners of the airline realise their dream. He said he was proud to be part of the inaugural flight and that it happened during his term. He too prayed for its growth and sustenance saying with competition, fares will decrease, thus increasing the number of customers. High Commissioner Yumkelia urged them to treat their customers with utmost care and to always go closer to them. He hoped they are here to stay. The Director General of The Gambia Civil Aviation Authority, Fansu Bojang, said the entrance of Inter Continental Airways into the market is timely noting it will fill the “big vacuum” created by the withdrawal of Slok Air International, which has been adversely felt in the sub-region. He said, “the presence of Inter Continental in our aviation industry will help achieve the Yamusu Koro declaration which is a desire of the AU to have economic integration in Africa through the liberation of our airspace.” Mr. Bojang said the presence of Inter Continental Airways will ease the movement of persons and goods in the sub-region and beyond. He hailed the owners of the airline as patriotic citizens of Africa because they are resident abroad but decided to invest in the continent, thus showing their commitment to the well-being of their fellow Africans. He assured them of GCAA’s full support. The Managing Director Inter Continental Airways, Captain Walter Kagbo, said they are bringing 40 years of experience in the industry to bear on the new venture. He said they will be flying from Banjul daily to cities in the sub-region and plan to extend it to four other cities, one in East and Southern Africa in the next six months. He said they plan to commence their first flight to the UK on October 1st, 2008 and thereafter the USA. He said they choose Banjul as their base because the GCAA is the best in the continent. He said their aim is to transform Banjul International Airport into the connecting point for travelers from across the region to the outside world. This he said will give Banjul more prominence and create jobs.