Economy

KQ and Emirates suspend flights as Dubai tiff escalate

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An Emirates Airlines plane. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) Director-General Gilbert Kibe told the Business Daily Tuesday that the suspension took effect Monday midnight for a period of seven days.
  • The ban does not however affect cargo flights that are normally flown by carriers such as Kenya Airways and Emirates airline from UEA into Kenya.

National carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) #ticker:KQ and Emirates Airlines have suspended passenger flights between the United Arabs Emirates (UAE) and Nairobi effective immediately after Kenya temporarily stopped all passenger flights from Dubai.

The Middle East carrier said Tuesday the suspension of operations would see passengers who had booked after January 11 to travel between the two destinations hold on to their tickets until a new travel date is announced.

Affected passengers, KQ said, could also take a voucher for the value of their tickets for future travel up to January 11, 2023.

KQ passengers can also leave tickets open for future use at no extra charge.

The suspension of operations by the two airlines does not, however, affect cargo flights that are normally operated by carriers such as Qatar Airways, KQ and Emirates airline from UAE into Kenya.

“Affected customers do not need to call us immediately for rebooking. Customers can simply hold on to their Emirates tickets and when flights resume, get in touch with their travel agents or booking office to make new travel plans,” said Emirates Airlines yesterday.

The airlines are cancelling flights to Nairobi barely a few hours after Kenya suspended all inbound and transit passenger flights from UAE for the next seven days to retaliate against a move by Dubai to ban all passenger flights from Kenya over fake Covid tests.

UAE had also extended the Kenya flight ban after it established that travellers from Nairobi were testing positive for Covid-19 after arrival in the Middle East nation, despite carrying negative test results.

KCAA director-general Gilbert Kibe said the scheme involved a racket of private medical testing centres that colluded with travellers to issue fake Covid-19 PCR results to aid their travel to Dubai.

The Ministry of Health has, however, launched a probe on the matter with a view to bringing to book health officials who were involved in the deal that will cost Kenya millions of shillings in lost passenger revenues.

The directive comes as a blow to KQ, which had seen an increase in bookings on this route occasioned by the ongoing Dubai Expo 2020 exhibition. The carrier was flaying two times per day between the two countries before the cancellations.

Emirates Airlines, on the other hand, was flying passengers 10 times per week between Dubai and Nairobi.

The Dubai-based carrier connects the bulk of the continent’s travellers to the rest of the world through its Dubai hub with the budget airlines feeding it with cargo and passengers in major cities like Nairobi.

Kenya exported goods worth Sh25.27 billion in the nine months to September 2021 from UAE while imports from the Middle East nation stood at Sh122.35 billion in the same period, official statistics show.

The temporary suspension of operations came barely a few days after Dubai introduced new travel requirements for those coming on direct flights from Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Under the new measures, travellers from Africa to Dubai were required to provide a report on a rapid PCR test conducted at the departure airport six hours before leaving for Dubai.

This is in addition to a negative Covid-19 test certificate issued within 48 hours of arrival in Dubai.

The new measures will also see passengers, including those in transit, undergo a PCR test upon arrival in Dubai and self-quarantine until a negative test result is out.

The new rules, which apply to both passengers terminating their journey and those transiting through Dubai, are expected to affect Africans, most of whom prefer Dubai as a transit point, due to its interconnectivity and the lower fares charged by its national carrier, Emirates Airlines.

The report comes at a time Kenya has recorded a sharp increase in cases of Covid-19 infections in recent months, while the number of admissions in health facilities is also increasing.

The positivity rate climbed sharply by a double-digit from last month, raising concerns among health officials.

The rate has increased from a low of 0.5 percent in October to 20.8 percent as at January 10 as the government stepped up testing and vaccination.

By January 10, Kenya had vaccinated 10.60 million, with 4.48 million people fully vaccinated up from 746,267 on August 14 while the number of those who have received the first jab has jumped to 6.04 million from two million over the same period.

The country has so far vaccinated 16.5 percent of its adult population. To boost vaccinations, the Health ministry had ordered public establishments to lock out the unvaccinated.

*** Updated