By Jenny Luesby
The Cabinet Secretary for Trade and Industrialisation Hon Betty Maina has announced the exemption of cargo flights from the current entry ban for foreigners, and additionally made arrangements for foreign flight crew lay-overs, in a bid to reopen the country’s fresh produce trade routes.
The new measures, announced by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority on Wednesday 18th March, open the way for Kenyan organisations and government to engage in negotiations with foreign airlines on resuming cargo flights, said Mr Ojepat Okisigere, Chief Executive Officer of the Fresh Produce Consortium – Kenya.
“The dropping of passenger traffic is a grave matter, but some airlines have planes that are dedicated solely to carrying air freight, and it is not impossible to engineer the rapid conversion of passenger planes for similar use, carrying air cargo both below deck and above deck,” he said.
Prior to the announcement of the cargo flight exemption, the normal 14 flights a day to the country’s key horticultural markets, including Amsterdam and London, had fallen to just six flights a day. Yesterday, the Kenya Airway flights from Amsterdam, Paris and London all arrived, but almost all the other airlines previously flying the same or similar routes had grounded all flights to and from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA)
Most of these airlines, including British Airways, have warned of the risk of imminent bankruptcy as a consequence of the global flight suspensions and simultaneous drop in air passenger traffic. The challenge now will be to achieve commercially viable loads based on cargo alone. However, with the Kenyan measures now in place to allow such flights, negotiations are now opening as Kenya seeks renewed and new air cargo capacity.