Shipping & Logistics

Hoteliers up in arms as Turkish Airlines’ direct flights cancelled

Tourists

Tourists enjoying themselves at Bamburi Beach Hotel, Mombasa in this photo taken on November 20, 2021. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Tourism players have raised concerns following the cancellation of Turkish Airlines’ direct flights to Mombasa.

The players are now calling on the government to act swiftly to reinstate the airlines’ flights.

An email by the Turkish Airlines marketing team to its customers said the flights that were expected to fly directly to Mombasa this year were cancelled until further notice.

“We wanted to start our MBA flights in the summer of 2022, unfortunately, we could not get the necessary permissions from Kenyan Civil Aviation Authority,” read the email.

The airline cancelled the flights until October 29 this year, telling those who had acquired passenger tickets to change travelling dates or ask for their refunds.

The tourism players said although the government is on the right track in terms of infrastructure, the challenge now lies in the restricted airspace.

“President Kenyatta’s government has done great for the infrastructure sector, where the administration has fallen short is open skies policy for Mombasa and Kenya coast,” said former Kenya Tourism Federation chairman, Mohammed Hersi.

“We were all delighted when Mombasa was granted Open skies in late 2,000 and the likes of Ethiopian Airlines and later Rwandair, Qatar, Turkish started to fly into Moi International Airport,” he said.

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“Kenya was one of the very first countries to ratify the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) by the African Union (AU) to open up the continent’s skies but successful implementation is vital.”

He appealed to the President to give an executive order to allow airlines that want to fly into Mombasa airport before his last days in office are over.

“It is ironic that Kenya Airways is hopping around Africa yet they want Mombasa denied the chance to welcome other airlines,” Mr Hersi said.

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority said the issue could only be resolved at the ministerial level.

“It is a matter of Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) where countries negotiate at state level about international flights. It is beyond KCAA,” said Salim Bakari, KCAA head of corporate communication

Previously, Mombasa used to receive 37 charters but following the wave of terrorist attacks in 2014/15 and the Covid Pandemic in 2020, the Kenyan coast tourism has dimmed.

“We are well aware that the President wants to protect our national carrier and we support that but surely not at the expense of other legitimate businesses. Permission to allow other airlines into Mombasa will not make Kenya Airways poorer. When will KQ ever fly to 20 cities in Germany or 10 cities in the UK or 20 cities in North America?” Mr Hersi posed.

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He noted with over 40,000 beds to be filled at the Kenya coast from Shimoni in Kwale to Lamu and further inland to Taita Taveta (Tsavo), all airlines that were earlier on stopped including the Turkish Airlines, Qatar, KLM and Emirates should be granted permission to resume operations.

Allowing these airlines to fly to Mombasa, Mr Hersi said will provide an opportunity for more than 320 cities in the world to connect to Mombasa.

According to the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Coast Executive Director, Dr Sam Ikwaye tourism professionals were totally forgotten in the entire Presidents tenure.

“Little focus in terms of stimulus packages were arranged for investors but generally training and other aspects relevant to the practice were forgotten or totally ignored,” he said.

Dr Ikwaye urged the President to see into the completion of Ronald Ngala College and launch it before he leaves office.

He also urged for the implementation of open skies policies especially for the coast so that the 40,000 plus beds can be filled.

“We have a serious shortage of dollars yet we are not supporting tourism, the low hanging fruit,” Dr Ikwaye said.