Shipping & Logistics

Kenya’s aviation recovery to nose dive after UK flights ban

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A Kenya Airways aircraft at JKIA. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Passenger flights account for 40 per cent of all the cargo transported by air and a decline in capacity signals high freight charges for importers.
  • Kenya on Saturday issued a directive that will see all non-citizens coming in from the UK required to self-isolate for 14 days starting Friday before they are admitted to the country as well as suspension of passenger flights between the two countries.

The directive by Kenya to cut passenger flights between Nairobi and UK will have serious impact on the local aviation sector with the capacity of belly cargo expected to drop even as Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) is set to lose out on transit passengers risking its status as a regional hub.

Passenger flights account for 40 per cent of all the cargo transported by air and a decline in capacity signals high freight charges for importers.

Kenya on Saturday issued a directive that will see all non-citizens coming in from the UK required to self-isolate for 14 days starting Friday before they are admitted to the country as well as suspension of passenger flights between the two countries.

“From midnight on April 9 all passenger flights whether commercial or charter between Kenya sand UK will be suspended. The suspension will be reviewed by the government of Kenya within four weeks,” said Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.

Kenya’s horticulture industry suffered one of the worst financial hits in its history last year after several major carriers pulled out of Nairobi following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, which created a serious shortage of freight space following the closure of airspace.

Passenger flights normally do belly cargo for fresh produce and other consignments for firms that do not require a whole freighter to ferry their consignment to the market.

JKIA is a major regional hub with passengers from other region flying to the facility to connect flights to Asia, Europe or Middle East with over 1.5 million travellers transiting through JKIA, according to Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.

The Kenyan government said the fact that some travellers from Nairobi have allegedly tested positive for Covid-19 in London is not exclusive to Kenya and does not justify putting the country UK ‘red list’.

The decision of the UK is reportedly based on scientific evidence, with Kenya particularly indicted for not closing down routes the South African variant of the coronavirus known as B.1.351 entered the country.

Diplomats expressed anger at what they feel is wrong-timing.

Last month, UK had indicated that the move to add Kenya on the red list would result from Kenya’s failure to close its borders with Tanzania.

The hard stance by the two countries is set to hit the tourism sector in in Kenya as the UK is among the top source markets.

The tourism industry had started its gradual return to activities in August with the resumption of international and domestic flights.

The country recorded a gradual growth in arrivals, since the resumption of international flights last year, registering 14,049 arrivals in August, 26,018 in September, and 39,894, in October respectively.

The Ministry of Tourism announced that Kenya would lose up to Sh80 billion from tourism last year after an impressive performance in 2019 where the sector earned Sh163.6 billion, a 3.9 percent rise from Sh157.4 billion in 2018.