Kenya’s national carrier Kenya Airways PLC has announce the resumption of flights to Heathrow, London from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) after a three-month break.
The direct flights, which begun on 26th of June 2021, follows the lifting of the suspension of flights to from the United Kingdom by the Government of Kenya.
The ban was effected on April 9, in retaliation of a similar move by the UK, when they placed Kenya in a list of its prohibited destination.
According to the airline, flights from London will include a one-stop connection through Nairobi to the rest of Kenya and Africa’s key destinations.
Commenting on the development, the airline’s Chief Commercial and Customer Officer Julius Thairu said the the resumption of flights to London, United Kingdom is in line with KQ’s plans to grow and expand their routes even as restrictions related to COVID-19 lift.
“The move will positively impact the flow of trade and tourism across the region by offering our customers convenient travel across the world. This route offers our customers convenient connections to key destinations. We remain fully committed to offer our customers an onboard travel experience that has their health and safety in mind,” said Thairu.
KQ says the resumption of flights has seen the Kenya and UK Governments issue health protocols that travellers are required to adhere to.
Among them includes requiring passengers travelling to the UK to be of British or Irish nationalities or have residence rights in the UK.
They must also have a negative COVID-19 certificate 3 days before travel, book a quarantine hotel package within 14-days before arrival and take 2 COVID-19 tests if they have been in a country or territory on the red list 10 days before travelling to the UK.
Passengers travelling to Kenya from the UK are required to have a negative COVID-19 PCR test certificate conducted within 96 hours before arrival; this excludes children below 5 years of age.
They must self-isolate for 7 days upon arrival and take a subsequent PCR test 4 days after arrival and submit daily health information including results of the second PCR test on the JITENGE platform for 14 consecutive days.
“KQ will continue to monitor and adjust frequency to our network of destinations as more jurisdictions open their airspace and ease travel restrictions,” Thairu said.
The resumptions comes at a time when the loss making carrier is attempting to recover.
KQ’s net loss nearly tripled to about $330 million in the year ended 2020, making it the worst ever in the history of the airline.
The loss was on account of Covid-19 disruptions that led to a sharp decline in passenger numbers.
Kenya – UK relations
The resumptions of flights come ahead of Kenya’s main tourism season, which peaks from July to September.
Data by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics identifies the UK as one of Kenya’s top tourism market for Kenya.
It also comes on the back of tourism sector revival efforts, following significant arrival drop in the last one year owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
The statistics office report that international arrivals to Kenya dropped from 1.54 million in 2019 to 439,447 in 2020 after the government banned all local and international flights in March, resulting in low tourist traffic at hotels and animal parks.
The flights would also help the two countries push their trade relations further, including the critical Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
According to the Kenya High Commission, the entry into force of the recently ratified Kenya UK Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) is a milestone achievement for the bilateral economic relations.
The Commission says that the Agreement guarantees long-term Duty Free and Quota free (DFQF)market access to the UK for all Kenyan exports except arms and agreed quantitative restrictions on tuna.
“The agreement confers similar benefits accorded to Least Developed Countries (LDC’s) including the other EAC Partner States but the agreed rules applicable to Kenyan exports such as rules of origin and standards are more beneficial, predictable and sustainable,” the commission says.
The UK has also been traditionally one of the Kenya’s leading export destination markets and is also one of Kenya’s leading trading partners outside the EAC.
According to the Commission, the value of annual trade between the two countries is estimated at between Sh70-90 billion Kenya shillings.
“Kenya has continuously enjoyed a favourable trade balance since 2016. The highest was Sh8.6 billion in 2018, when the value of Kenya’s exports was Sh40.2 billion, relative to imports valued at Sh31.6 billion,” the commission states.