Shipping & Logistics

JKIA passenger numbers drop 72pc as Covid rocks aviation

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Terminal 1A at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Passenger numbers at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) declined by 72 percent last year as cargo recorded a marginal drop of three percent in the year to February.
  • The Kenya Aiports Authority (KAA) said the cargo counter continued to perform well thanks mainly to enhanced demand for fresh produce and other related supplies as well as transportation of Covid-19 pandemic associated goods.

Passenger numbers at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) declined by 72 percent last year as cargo recorded a marginal drop of three percent in the year to February.

The Kenya Aiports Authority (KAA) said the cargo counter continued to perform well thanks mainly to enhanced demand for fresh produce and other related supplies as well as transportation of Covid-19 pandemic associated goods.

Data from the KAA indicates that the passenger numbers at JKIA dropped from 5.8 million in the previous year to 1.6 million last year as the aviation sector continues to reel from the effects of Covid-19.

The industry data showed aircraft movement in review period dropped by 53 percent from 80,580 previously to 37,895 with cargo declining to 253.1 million kilos from 245 million. However, the month of February 2021 showed signs of recovery with a 5.2 percent growth compared with the same period in the previous year.

“The amount of cargo handled in February increased by 5.2 percent to stand at 35,124,689 kilos recorded over the period under review,” said the report from KAA.

Moi International Airport recorded a 60 percent decline on passenger numbers, highlighting the impact of Covid-19 on tourism at the Kenya’s coastal city.

The decreased passenger numbers could be attributed to a slowdown in the number of visitors to the region on account of Covid-19, which saw Kenya impose a lockdown and ban international flights to curb the spread of the virus.

Eldoret International Airport recorded a 43.4 percent decline in number of passengers with the cargo volumes dipping by 12 percent.

This comes at a time when global air cargo demand has returned to pre-Covid levels in January, showing recovery for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic a year ago. The upturn in performance was a relief to airlines that have been struggling for the last one year.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said January demand also showed strong month-to-month growth over December 2020 levels.

Total demand in January 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) was down 72.0percent compared to January 2019. That was worse than the 69.7percent year-over-year decline recorded in December 2020.

Total domestic demand was down 47.4 percent versus pre-crisis (January 2019) levels. In December it was down 42.9 percent on the previous year.

International passenger demand in January was 85.6 percent below January 2019, a further drop compared to the 85.3 percent year-to-year decline recorded in December.

IATA says 2021 started off worse than 2020 ended and that even as vaccination programmes gather pace, new Covid-19 variants are leading governments to increase travel restrictions with the uncertainty around how long these restrictions will last having an impact on future travel.

IATA has urged governments to implement testing as an alternative to quarantine measures when re-opening their economies.

“Mandatory quarantine measures stop people from travelling. We understand that governments’ priority is on protecting the well–being of their citizens. Quarantine destroys livelihoods. Testing is an alternative method that will also save travel and tourism jobs,” said IATA previously.

In East Africa, Kenya has imposed a 14-day quarantine for visitors coming in from the countries that have not been listed in the safe list. IATA had projected that the recovery of airline would happen in the next three years when economies are projected to have been fully opened.