Monday, March 24, 2014

Can One Be in Conakry?

Not that anyone would advise flying to Guinea this week, but that had been in my plans just a few days ago. That necessitated the 21st century ex-pat-in-Africa ritual of researching how to fly from one country to its next door neighbor. Although having long since obtained my PhD in this subject, I am struck by the double shock of (1) how difficult this logistical information-gathering still is; (2) how infrequent, indirect and expensive the flights are. West Africa in particular, a checkerboard of francophone and anglophone countries, remains astoundingly difficult to move around in, even just crossing a single border.

Case in point, to fly to one Mano River Union capital (boasting two airports nonetheless), to the capital city of its larger neighbor: Monrovia to Conakry. There are no direct flights, at all. There are not really any connecting flights, either, in the more conventional sense of, getting halfway there and having to stop and switch planes.

There is only very, very, indirect. Like, Casablanca indirect. Or, slightly better, Dakar indirect. No wait, that involves flying in the opposite direction, to switch in Accra first. Same with the third Mano River capital, Freetown, which is directly in between the other two: that itinerary goes on to switch in Banjul before heading back down to Conakry. Twenty-six hour journey, that one: more than ten hours longer than driving.

That is the shortest flight route out of Robertsfield. It also costs $1,975. United States Dollars.

How about from convenient little Spriggs-Payne, which, from the middle of last year, has once again been host to the puddle-jumper network of ASKY Airlines?

Oh, much better: $620, a third of the price (for a one-way ticket). But this is still a three-stop journey, in the wrong direction two out of the three times: Monrovia-Accra-Lomé-Abidjan-Conakry. Eight-hours, forty minutes. Only one seat left at this price!!! I guess I am lucky I won't have to fly to Brussels first.

Guess there's more than one reason not to go to Conakry this week.

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