Kenya to resume local air travel on July 15, international air travel on August 1

Kenya Airways planes are seen parked at the Jomo Kenyatta International airport near Kenya's capital Nairobi, April 28, 2016. /Thomas Mukoya/Reuters
FILE PHOTO: Kenya Airways planes are seen parked at the Jomo Kenyatta International airport near Kenya’s capital Nairobi. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo

Kenya’s aviation industry received a boost on Monday after the government announced a planned resumption of local and international air travel despite the country still reporting increased numbers of COVID-19 cases.

In March, the government suspended all international flights in and out of the country. In May, the government then extended a ban on commercial flights, with the exception of fights arriving to evacuate foreign nationals. In addition to emergency flights, cargo flights were also exempted during the suspension.

President Uhuru Kenyatta in an address to the nation said that domestic flights will resume on July 15 while international flights will resume on August 1.

These, President Kenyatta added, will be in strict conformity with all applicable guidelines and protocols from both the Ministry of Health and civil (local and international) aviation authorities. He noted that additional requirements applicable at the ports of departure, arrival or transit must be adhered to.

President Kenyatta said an agreement had been reached that the country had reached certain level for re-opening.

“According to the experts and stakeholders, we have not met the irreducible minimum 100 percent. However, consensus amongst them is that we have reached a reasonable level of preparedness across the country to allow us to re-open,” President Kenyatta said.

The news is welcome for the national carrier, Kenya Airways (KQ), which had switched its focus to operating cargo and repatriation flights following the suspension. The carrier which predominantly operate passenger flights was banking on a rise in demand for freight to boost business after it suspended its domestic and international flights.

The airline has struggled for a number of years posting losses and came under additional financial pressure due to the costs involved in placing staff under quarantine.

KQ is expected to sack an unknown number of staff, reduce its network and dispose of certain assets, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters. Last week trading of Kenya Airways shares was suspended due to an impending government buyout.

CEO Allan Kilavuka said that KQ had lost an estimated $100 million in revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdowns.

In March, Jambojet, the budget carrier and a subsidiary of KQ, suspended its flights to Kigali and Entebbe citing a reduction of travellers on its international routes.

Kenya becomes the latest East African country to announce a resumption of air travel after Rwanda which said that its airports will reopen for scheduled commercial flight operations at the start of August.