KQ deploys larger aircraft as travellers rush to leave India


A KQ Dreamliner aircraft. FILE PHOTO | NMG

National carrier Kenya Airways has deployed a larger capacity plane on the Nairobi-Mumbai route, as passengers scrambled to exit India ahead of the suspension of flights between the two countries starting tomorrow.

The airline said a Boeing 787 plane would service the route to cater to the increased demand, replacing the smaller Boeing 737, which has been on it since the resumption of international flights last September.

“This flight has been upgraded to a B787 to match the demand for our countrymen who are ready to come back home,” said Dennis Kashero, KQ director of communications.

Kenya on Wednesday suspended flights to and from India following a record surge in Covid-19 cases in the Asian country. India, which is currently in the grip of its second wave of the pandemic, has repeatedly broken the global single-day record for new cases.

As of Wednesday, 360,960 new infections were reported in the populous country — marking the seventh consecutive day infections surpassed 300,000.

April 28 was also the deadliest day so far, with 3,293 fatalities raising the toll to 201,187.

This has triggered widespread flight bans to and from India in an attempt to try and contain the spread of the deadly variant of Covid-19. As of Wednesday, at least 10 countries had instituted new bans on flights to and from India and extended mandatory quarantines for travellers arriving from there.

The scramble for plane seats out of Mumbai is likely to be costly for travellers as witnessed earlier this month when air ticket prices to the UK rose fivefold when British expatriates and tourists rushed to exit Kenya ahead of the suspension of passenger flights between the two countries starting April 9.

KQ has scheduled a flight departing from Nairobi on Friday night to India, returning on Saturday at 8pm while another one left yesterday and arrives back today morning at 4.45am.

The airline did not disclose the ticket prices between Nairobi and Mumbai on its website though officials confirmed they had become pricier.

“On resumption of flights (after the lockdown) return was $1,600. One way was approximately $800. Ticket prices change depending on demand and it is bound to go up,” said Mr Kashero.

The official said all passengers arriving on these flights will remain in mandatory quarantine for 14 days as directed by the government and they would be tested for Covid-19 at the end of the confinement.

KQ resumed operations to India under a special arrangement referred to as ‘air bubble’ in aviation terms.