KQ likely to delay flights over tough Corona rules

Kenya Airways planes at JKIA in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG Kenya Airways is considering delaying the resumption of flights if the national carrier is compelled to keep some seats empty under the social distancing rules imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country.

The airline’s CEO, Allan Kilavuka, said that it would be unviable to fly with the middle row seats empty in efforts to ensure passengers maintain social distance. If the rules are maintained, then the carrier will need to nearly double ticket prices for flights to remain sustainable and profitable.

Fresh Ministry of Trade rules, which were published to guide businesses during the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, demand that airlines limit passenger numbers to nearly half of their licensed capacity in line with public health regulations. KQ had hoped to resume commercial domestic flights in “the next couple of days” as the State prepares to ease the lockdown on travel between counties, especially Nairobi and Mombasa.

President Uhuru Kenyatta had on Friday said local flights would resume soon as part of easing of restrictions on travel and business.

However, after Friday’s KQ Annual General Meeting, Mr Kilavuka said it would be uneconomical to fly as the ticket cost would increase by 60 to 100 percent.

“This will make it impossible for us to operate, and it is not just KQ alone but also other airlines,” he said.

Kenya closed its airspace in March after confirming its first case of Covid-19. So far, it has reported 6,070 positive cases and 143 deaths.

As part of its response to the global pandemic, the government halted movement in and out of five counties in early April, including Nairobi and Mombasa, grounding domestic flights.

Mr Kenyatta said on Friday that Kenya would resume domestic flights in coming days as a trial for inter-county travel, and that restriction on travel into and out of Nairobi and Mombasa would be eased. The President will review the restriction on movement on July 6.

Kenya Airways has said that there has been no scientific proof that there is risk of virus transmission in an aircraft because of improved air flow systems in the planes, a pointer that the carrier is pushing for other measures like use of face masks, pre-flight screening and sanitising cabins to ensure safety of passengers and crew.

“We had a discussion at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) board level and conducted studies to determine the risk of […]

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