Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ passengers flying to Sierra Leone will have to pay $80 (Sh8,000) extra for their return tickets after the government introduced a new tax to pay for security equipment installed at the country’s main airport.
This is after all airlines operating in the West African state were ordered to collect a new security fee ($40 (Sh4,000 one way) from their passengers at the point of ticket purchase effective April 1.
Sierra Leone owes Securiport, an American security firm, Sh1.2 billion for immigration control equipment installed at the Freetown Lungi International Airport in 2014 to screen passengers amid aviation threats like terrorism.
KQ operates daily flights to Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown, mostly ferrying businesspeople looking to do trade in the mineral rich country.
A return KQ ticket from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to Freetown currently costs between Sh153,000 and Sh182,000, according to the airline’s website.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has cautioned Sierra Leone government against implementing the security tax, saying higher fares will result in a reduction of 7,500 passengers per year.
“The government has been paying for this essential service since its inception but is now constrained to continue due to the present financial situation,” Leonard Balogun, the country’s transport minister, says in a circular seen by Business Daily.
West Africa represents significant number of KQ routes in the continent, making the impending ticket price increase harmful to its business.
Sierra Leone, which is grappling with the aftershocks of the Ebola crisis and a collapse of iron ore prices, has decided to pass on the immigration system’s installation and maintenance costs to passengers.
Children under two years, airline staff, as well as passengers whose transit time in is less than 24 hours and those diverted inland will be exempt from paying the tax.
The minister addressed the letter, dated April 7, to several airline and travel agents representatives, including Kenya Airways’ manager for the West African region.
“This (tax) would impact the cost of travel into Freetown. Through IATA, airlines have engaged the Sierra Leone government with a view to have this taxation reversed,” said Vincent Coste, KQ’s commercial director.