©AfreePress-(Lomé, July 6, 2023)- Niamtougou, a city in the north part of Togo, is no longer just a dream but a reality for commercial flights. Liz Aviation made this breakthrough on Wednesday, July 5, 2023, with its inaugural flight on an ATR 72-600 aircraft. The significance of the event was highlighted by the presence of the Minister of Road, Air, and Rail Transport, Affoh Atcha-Dedji, the Director-General of the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC), Col Gnama Latta, the CEO of Liz Aviation, Moussa Diarra, and several anonymous passengers on board.
Warm Welcome in Niamtougou
As the plane landed on the runway of Niamtougou Airport, it was greeted with a water salute, followed by cheers from a welcoming committee consisting of airport and local administrative authorities. Despite the intense midday heat, the palpable excitement surrounding the event was not dampened. For those who still doubted the realization of this long-awaited service, the arrival of the Minister of Transport’s aircraft quickly dispelled any remaining skepticism.
Inside the Aircraft
All the buzz and excitement were well worth it, as this marked the first time in the memory of the Togolese people that a commercial flight would connect Lomé and Niamtougou. This new service will also bring increased activity to Niamtougou Airport, which has seen little traffic apart from occasional flights by the Head of State. Additionally, Liz Aviation’s operations will provide job opportunities for many Togolese citizens, as emphasized by Col Gnama Latta upon the plane’s arrival. Following this inaugural flight, up to three flights per week are planned from July 5th to July 15th, including two round trips on Thursday, July 13th.
It is no wonder that this inaugural flight has stirred up emotions. Paul Pirali, the representative of the Director-General of the Lomé Tokoin Airport Company (SALT), attested to this. Deputy, Me Molgah Kadjaka Abougnima, did not want to miss out on the event either. She expressed her joy, stating, “We are very happy to witness this inaugural flight, which marks the reality of having a company that connects Lomé to the Doufelgou prefecture. It is important for us to come here on weekends. So, if we had two or three flights per week, it would be a good thing. We could leave Lomé on Friday and return on Monday morning, feeling as if we hadn’t traveled at all… We could even invite friends to spend a weekend here and depart afterward.”
Secure and Economical Flights
The plane departed from Lomé at 11:32 a.m. and landed in Niamtougou around 12:30 p.m., covering the distance in just one hour, with the return flight taking the same amount of time. The smooth takeoff, flight, and landing were applauded by the sixty passengers upon arrival, acknowledging the skill of the pilot. The transportation conditions were praised by both the Director-General of ANAC and the Minister of Transport during the inaugural ceremony in the Niamtougou airport hall.
“I can assure all those who wish to travel aboard Liz Aviation’s ATR 72-600 that they will reach their destination safely… It’s a safe and secure airline with professional staff,” praised Col Gnama Latta, highlighting the excellent opportunity for those who want to attend the Evala festival: “It’s a great opportunity. Traveling from Lomé to Niamtougou in less than an hour is fantastic. People can send their vehicles, take the plane, and upon arrival, find their vehicles waiting for them… It’s truly delightful Flight Prices and Development”, he said.
One-way tickets are priced at 65,000 CFA francs, while round-trip tickets cost 120,000 CFA francs, offering promotional rates for passengers. The CEO of ANAC considers these prices affordable and economical. He explained, “If you consider the fuel cost alone for a round trip in a car consuming 200 liters, you would already spend around 160,000 CFA francs, not to mention vehicle depreciation… In just one hour, you can leave Lomé and arrive in Niamtougou, and vice versa.”
Unlocking Regional Connectivity
The aim of Liz Aviation’s initiative is to make air travel accessible, as it has become a necessity for safe and efficient transportation in Africa. The inauguration of the Lomé-Niamtougou route is part of the company’s formal program to enhance connectivity within the major countries of West Africa. Moussa Diarra, the CEO of Liz Aviation, highlighted the progress made by the airline, stating, “We started with the Ouaga-Bobo Dioulasso route in Burkina Faso, and today we are officially launching the Lomé-Niamtougou route.”
The chosen date for the launch of the service by Liz Aviation was not coincidental. It aligned with the traditional Evala festivals in the Kabye region, serving as a test period for the company’s CEO, Mahamadou Bonkoungou. “These flights will cover the period of the Evala festivals, which will be a trial for us. Based on this experience, we will further refine our plans to make this mode of transportation more accessible,” explained the CEO, emphasizing the availability and regularity of flights for passengers.
The initiative has received the approval of the authorities and aligns with the government’s roadmap for the development of aviation. The Minister of Road, Air, and Rail Transport highlighted plans to rehabilitate Niamtougou Airport, including extending the runway from 2,500 meters to 3,000 meters to meet international standards. This upgrade would also attract other airlines to operate at the airport.
Beyond political considerations, the introduction of air service to Niamtougou will significantly contribute to domestic tourism. In the near future, it may even facilitate travel to neighboring countries. The company has reportedly ordered additional aircraft, expected to be delivered by the end of the year, to strengthen its fleet. This inaugural flight marks the beginning of internal flights for Liz Aviation, and the company is already looking ahead. Moussa Diarra shared their plans, saying, “We have other destinations within Togo in mind, such as Dapaong… We are working with the government to improve the condition of the runways in these cities.” Such developments are sure to be well-received by the Togolese population.