Kenya Airways, alongside AirKenya Express, Fly540 and Safarilink Aviation, remain locked out of the Tanzanian airspace for the second month now in revenge for a decision by Nairobi to retain Tanzania on the red list of nations with high risk of Coronavirus cases.
Attempts to resolve the standoff have not yielded fruits, with Tanzanian authorities maintaining that the ban on Kenyan Airlines would only be reviewed if Kenya dropped its nationals from the Covid-19 red list.
But Kenya is still stuck to its guns, saying that allowing free movement of persons from Tanzania would compromise the health and safety of her citizens
”Tanzania wants Kenya to relax the COVID-19 restrictions before they allow the resumption of flights. However, we are still engaged in negotiation with the authorities there on the way forward and we are hopeful a solution will be found soon,” said Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) director-general Gilbert Kibe, who is leading the Kenyan delegation in the negotiations.
President John Pombe Magufuli’s refusal to impose a lock down or physical social distancing measures and decision to halt the release of figures on COVID -19 infections since late April, has made him a regional threat and caused concern among Tanzania’s neighbours and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The long ban from the Tanzanian airspace gives a major blow to Kenyan airlines, especially for KQ which is trying to recoup losses from several months of Covid-related restrictions on local and international travel.
Tanzania is a critical destination for KQ, who had planned two daily flights to Dar es Salaam and three weekly flights to the resort city of Zanzibar from August 1 when Kenya resumed international flights.
The plans, however, hit a dead end after the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) on July 30 barred KQ flights, citing the decision by Nairobi to exclude Tanzania from the list of countries whose nationals would be allowed entry under revised Corona-virus control measures.
Prior to the ban of KQ, who operates its regional hub from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, had a permit to fly 14 times to Dar es Salaam every week, three times to Kilimanjaro and two times to Zanzibar, mostly ferrying tourists and business travellers.
With no end in sight for the tit-for-tat trade war between Kenya and Tanzania, the Kenyan airlines are likely to continue losing business opportunities—adding to the long list of firms that have fallen victim of the diplomatic feuds between the two countries in the past four years.
Kenya and Tanzania have had bruising fights over work visas, taxes and market access rights for items such as sugar, milk and dairy products. This has affected bilateral trade between the two nations, prompting a series of meetings, including a summit in Arusha between November 12 and 16 last year to try to mend the frosty ties but all in vain.