First commercial passenger flight lands after 3 months

Jun 24, 2020, 1:20 PM

Brussels Airlines flight SN 215 landed at Banjul International Airport at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, 22nd June, being the first passenger flight to land here since the government closed the county’s airspace as a measure to minimise the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic in the country. 

The aircraft is an Airbus A300 with 150 passengers; half the normal load for such aircraft.

Some members of the National Covid-19 Taskforce and some immigration officers were at the airport to receive the passengers who are predominantly Gambians returning from Europe. There were also a few European tourists.

Reports from observers at the airport speak of a chaotic situation on the arrival of the passengers with suitcases strewn on the airside road bordering the terminal building.

Luggage tractors and buses blocked traffic on the road. Passengers scrambled to identify their luggage.  Once all the suitcases were identified, the arriving passengers boarded two buses which drove towards hotels in the TDA. One of the buses went to Tamala Hotel. However, no one was there to receive the exhausted travellers or help them. 

They stood around for hours before they were finally transported to The Atlantic Hotel in Banjul.

Some of the passengers who waited long, found their ways to flout the quarantine.

“Passengers had no information during the flight about any quarantine arrangements. We heard that they wanted to quarantine us for two weeks," the speculation started onboard the plane. "Yes that is true," a passenger said.

"But they won't be able to quarantine all of us," another passenger claimed.

One passenger had even suggested if there was going to be mandatory quarantine he would bribe his way out of it. "In the Gambia money will get you anything," he alleged, as the plane landed and the passengers alighted.

They were loaded onto three waiting buses. One by one, their temperature was taken as they entered the buses and their hands were sprayed with sanitiser.

Then the questions began again this time directed at people who were supposed to be in the know - health and airport personnel.

After the long process, people tripped over each other as they wrestled to get to their bags. One traveller even claimed his suitcase had been tampered with. The suitcases didn't get to Customs for the usual controls for drugs and other illegal.

SN0215 flight had landed at 7.35pm. Passengers did not leave the airport until two hours after.

Passengers said that MoH and the Covid-19 Coordination Team need to do more to avoid repetition of what had happened before the next flight on 3 July 2020.