Domestic flights growth tipped to pick up ahead of elections

kisumu air

Kisumu International Airport. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya’s aviation sector is on a steady lift off after several turbulent months caused by the economic fallout of the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic early last year.

Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) Director-General Gilbert Kibe said domestic traffic growth has increased significantly since August and the outlook is even more promising following the removal of Kenya from the United Kingdom’s red list mid last month that imposes the highest restrictions on travellers from the country.

Mr Kibe said the average daily aircraft movement currently stands at about 550 from 1,045 before the Covid-19 outbreak, which represents 110 international aircraft movement and 440 domestic traffic.

“Kenya is now in green list by more than 200 countries and with the recent UK delisting from red list, it will significantly assist the sector to recover,” he said.

“In Kenya, domestic traffic growth is expected to resume to normal in 2022 based on the level of vaccination in the country, assuming there will be no unforeseen challenges that may be posed by new variants of the coronavirus,” added the director General.

Following the outbreak of the pandemic, Kenya suspended all international passenger flights in and out of of the country on March 25,2020 after the first case was confirmed on March 13.

Passenger traffic only resumed on July 15, 2020 for domestic traffic and August 1, 2020 for international travellers.

The suspension of air traffic movement impacted negatively on the aviation sector, throwing most airlines into financial distress.

But Mr Kibe said domestic traffic was growing at an upward trajectory with local arlines increasing their frequencies between different cities, an indication of strong recovery of the sector.

“KCAA has registered 1,900 aircraft in the country and in the last few months, more than 900 have resumed their operations. We expect the number to increase considering we are also entering into campaign period where there will be constant movement of people as air has proved to be economical for politicians who want to crisscross country,” he said.

Mr Kibe said during the heightened period of Covid-19 travel restrictions, KCAA instituted a number of measures to cushion the industry to enable the aviation sector to absorb the pandemic shocks by offering exemptions and dispensations where full compliance of aviation requirements was not possible without compromising aviation safety and security.

Starting March last year KCAA extended the expiry periods for Air Operation Certificates for a period of six months and thereafter, extensions were given on a case-by-case basis until became possible onsite inspection of aircraft.

The authority also waived fees and charges for services rendered for the period of exemption/dispensation.

Growth rate forecast

Since the resumption of Air travel, the Flight Operations department resumed the scaled down on-site inspection and oversight activities by undertaking them on a case-by-case basis.

Physical interactions were limited and virtual means were encouraged and that worked well to spur the industry that was in limbo.

The industry is now recovering and macroeconomic data based on International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) global forecast, recent estimates of demand shocks indicates that traffic forecast will return to 2019 levels in 2024 at low growth rate of 3.6 percent compared to 4.2 percent before Covid-19.