JKIA passengers drop 59pc on back of surging Covid numbers


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

Passenger numbers at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) have dropped by 59 percent monthly in the current financial year as the sector continues to reel from the effects of the second wave of Covid-19.

According to the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA), monthly passengers passing through the airport have so far dropped to an average of 211,904 from 514,350 in the last financial year.

To achieve last year’s performance the airport needs at least 302,446 more passengers a month which is unlikely due to the ongoing pandemic.

“The gradual growth of commercial air passenger traffic in the country continued to be heavily impacted by the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said KAA.

The aviation sector is yet to fully recover as travel restriction put in place and the second wave of the Covid-19 have seen a decline in passenger demand with some of the countries in Europe restricting their citizens from traveling abroad.

The trend was the same at the Moi International Airport in Mombasa where the passenger numbers declined 56 percent from 1.1 million percent to 506,199 percent, highlighting the adverse effect that the Covid-19 has had on the tourism sector in Kenya’s major tourist hub.

Cargo handled at the JKIA in the review period dropped marginally by five percent to record 253 million kilogrammes.

Freight numbers have been picking up since October last year as demand for cargo transport across the world has been growing, partly boosted by the movement of Covid-19 vaccines.

“The cargo counter however continued to perform well anchored mainly on enhanced demand for fresh produce and other consumables in destination markets as well as the conveyance of Covid-19 related supplies,” said the authority.

This week, Kenya’s aviation agency extended the ban on passenger flights between Nairobi and London for one month, coming as a blow to Kenya Airways summer bookings, which had planned to resume plying the route.

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) has extended a freeze on flight operations on the route to June 5 after the previous directive expired on May 5.

This implies that all the flights to or from Kenya to London are still prohibited, after Nairobi in April suspended the operations in retaliatory move following Britain’s move to include Kenya in the red list, barring its citizens from travelling to the UK.

“The suspension on flights between Kenya and UK is still on. We have extended the Notice to the Airmen by another one month,” said KCAA director-general Gilbert Kibe.

The national carrier Kenya Airways had planned to resume flights to London this week after the expiration of the previous notice that had stopped the operations on that route.

The period starting June normally records higher booking for airlines as travellers from western countries travel for summer holiday.

The International Air Travel Association (IATA) said 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 the containment measures will last, having an impact on future travel.