Waiting for take-off in West Africa

Flying between the West African capitals of Freetown and Banjul should take about an hour. But as the BBC’s Umaru Fofana found out, because of the region’s poor air connections, it can be quicker and easier to fly via Morocco or Belgium, although that could take a day, or even three.

I recently had to travel to The Gambia on a reporting trip for the BBC.

In theory, this journey of 700km (400 miles) should take about an hour and The Gambia is a popular tourist destination, which is served by charter flights from across Europe.

But there are just two flights a week from Freetown and the days didn’t fit with my trip.

One option would have been to fly with Royal Air Maroc via Casablanca, where there can be a stopover of 30 hours with no automatic entitlement to hotel accommodation.

So it is actually quicker, but far more expensive, to fly to Belgium’s capital Brussels and then connect to Banjul.

That “only” takes 24 hours.

Another option would have been with Air Cote D’Ivoire, a relatively new kid on the aviation block.

This would have meant flying via its hub in Abidjan, then to Dakar and onward to Banjul.

However, I would have needed to stay overnight in Abidjan, and possibly another night in Dakar to be able catch Brussels Airlines which is virtually the only reliable means of flying to Banjul from the Senegalese capital.

So a total journey time of about three days.

In the end, the best option was to drive from Freetown to Conakry, before flying to Dakar, Senegal’s capital, where I spent the night to get my connecting flight to Banjul the following day.

I spent two days travelling for a trip that should have taken me just over an hour.

My return leg was even more exhausting. I flew from Banjul to Dakar, spent the night and flew on the next evening to Conakry.

I had to spend another night in Guinea’s capital before driving to Freetown on the third day.

To read more, please visit BBC

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