Shipping & Logistics

Nairobi-Mogadishu flights take off after standoff resolved


President Uhuru Kenyatta with the President of Somalia H.E. Mohamed Farmaajo after they held a joint press conference at a Nairobi Hotel. PHOTO | PSCU

Direct flights to Mogadishu have finally resumed after suspension in what was attributed to maritime dispute between Kenya and Somalia.

Aviation regulator says they issued Notice to the airmen (Notam) recently that advised on the resumption of non-stop flights from Mogadishu to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Wilson Airport.

However, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) said the flights coming out of Kismayu will have to make a stopover at Wajir Airport to get security clearance.

“We issued the Notam seven days after the presidential directive and I can confirm to you now that the direct flights between Nairobi and Mogadishu have now resumed,” said KCAA Director General Gilbert Kibe.

The move comes as a boost to airline operators who had to incur extra costs in making stopovers at Wajir. Kenya had in May suspended direct flights from Somalia's capital Mogadishu to Nairobi for security reasons but Somalia argued that the move could have been politically instigated.

The move required all the flights from Somalia to first land in Wajir before proceeding to JKIA.

The stalemate was resolved recently after President Uhuru Kenyatta met with his Somalia counterpart Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed a fortnight ago.

Kenya and Somalia are currently engaged in a row over maritime border on the Indian Ocean coast that has seen the case end up at the International Court of Justice.

In 2006, Kenya imposed a strict security policy requiring flights from Mogadishu to land in Wajir for security checks before heading to any other part of the country.

The idea, Kenya argued, would ensure the safety of passengers and cargo, as Al-Shabaab militants had taken control of vast areas of the country.

In September 2016, Kenya and Somalia signed an agreement to lift the ban, after both sides certified security arrangements for departing flights at Aden Abdille International Airport, the agreement was honoured in December of the same year.

Freight carriers plying Nairobi–Mogadishu route were hit by the new directive to have all airlines make a stopover in Wajir, saying the move added Sh1 million dent in their operating cost.

The operators, who were previously exempted from the stopover, are now required to make a security stop following a notice issued by KCAA.

Air freight cost had dropped by at least 15 percent between Mogadishu and Nairobi in 2018 following the resumption of direct flights to Somalia in 2017.

Airline operators said they had to lower the charges of hauling cargo in bid to pass the benefit of direct flights to shippers.