KAA plan on resumption of flights hits bumpy runway


Kenya Airways planes at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) is on the spot after calling for a stakeholders meeting to discuss possible resumption of flight operations.

The authority has been accused of usurping the government’s role in seeking to initiative deliberations on how and when flights will take off.

Shipping and Logistics has learnt that the meeting slated to be held virtually last week, was cancelled by the Ministry of Transport, which has the final authority on when flights will resume.

This move has revealed a breakdown in communication between the board and the management of the KAA, with a document seen by Shipping and Logistics criticising the manner in which the letter was written and shared.

“Unfortunately it is a badly written letter which should never have gone out as is and with the password of the meeting. KAA cannot determine when flight operations will commence. This is the decision of the government,” read a communication from a board member.

Another source at the airport said the ministry was concerned with the “reckless way” the information leaked to the public with the details of the meeting including the password, which would enable even unauthorised parties to sneak in.

“That was a very serious security breach for such a letter to be put out in the social media with all the details. This had the ministry concerned over the recklessness by KAA,” said the source.

In the letter KAA, which manages the airports in the country, had anticipated resumption of flights soon and wanted to hold the meeting to assess the level of preparedness.

“In preparation of the imminent resumption of passenger operations at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, you are hereby invited to a virtual meeting to be held on Wednesday 13th May 2020 at 11.00hrs,” read the letter.

KAA, however, said it cancelled the meeting because of operation challenges and that they would reconvene it on a later date.

“We were supposed to have a meeting with the stakeholders but the meeting never took place. It was pushed to a later date due to operational issues,” said KAA.

Kenya Civil Aviation Authority director general Gilbert Kibe said it would take some time before the operations resume at the airport given that the cases of Covid-19 are still going up.

“We do not know yet when operations will resume but certainly not now because of the rising cases of the Coronavirus. We are monitoring the situation even as we ready ourselves should operations resume,” said Mr Kibe.

Kenya closed its airspace to international passenger flights on March to contain the spread of Covid-19 that has so far seen more than 900 Kenyans infected.

This was followed shortly with the grounding of local airlines after the government imposed lockdown in three counties including Nairobi, which is the base for all carriers.

The restriction also applied to Mombasa and Kilifi counties and more recently in Eastleigh area in Nairobi, which has now been marked as a hotspot.

International cargo flights have been operational though as they were not halted.

A number of airlines also, including Kenya Airways, have been operating repatriation flights from Europe and Asia.