Kenya Airways suspends Mumbai flights over Covid-19 crisis

Kenya Airways planes

Kenya Airways planes are pictured at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi on February 18, 2021.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Kenya has joined nations including Bangladesh, the UK, Oman, France and Hong Kong in banning travel to and from India.

Kenya Airways (KQ) has suspended passenger flights to and from Mumbai until further notice, following a government directive on travel between India and Kenya due to a Covid-19 crisis in that country.

On Wednesday, Nairobi suspended passenger flights from India for 14 days, citing a new, highly infectious coronavirus strain.

The airline said on Friday that passengers who had booked tickets after May 1, the date of the last flight from Mumbai to Nairobi, will have to change their plans.

Affected passengers, KQ said, could also take vouchers for the value of their fare for future travel within 12 months.

”We apologise for the inconvenience and thank you for your support during this time,” the national carrier told its customers.

Travellers arriving in Kenya after midnight will undergo a mandatory Covid-19 test and quarantine for 14 days under the supervision of health officials.

Cargo operations will continue "to facilitate delivery of emergency supplies including pharmaceuticals and medical equipment to Kenya and across Africa", the airline said.

Kenya has joined nations including Bangladesh, the UK, Oman, France and Hong Kong in banning travel to and from India and asking citizens arriving from the Asian country to isolate in government-approved hotels.

India has seen soaring infection and deaths following the discovery of a new virus variant.

On Wednesday, the country recorded 360,960 new cases in 24 hours, as hospitals turned patients away due to a shortage of oxygen, intensive care beds and ventilators.

Daily deaths from Covid-19 rose by a record 2,812 in 24 hours, pushing the toll to over 195,000.

Key trading partner

India, one of Kenya’s main trading partners, accounted for 102,600 passenger arrivals through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in 2019, and was the second-largest source of imports valued at Sh178.8 billion.

A large number of patients from Kenya also travel to India every year for specialised medical treatment, especially cancer care, helping to drive medical tourism in the densely populated country that boasts affordable and easily accessible healthcare.

The KQ suspension comes as the airline risks paying Sh13.9 billion in refunds to customers for unused tickets bought last year, mainly due to cancelled flights in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This could see the national carrier revise its revenue downwards, according to disclosures by the company’s external auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), for the financial year ended December.

The airline, like its peers across the world, is now asking customers to accept vouchers which allow them to travel in future, while conserving the much-needed cash to remain afloat, instead of giving refunds.

Passenger ticket sales are accounted for as current liabilities and later recognised as revenue when customers fly or the tickets expire.

PwC says the option of letting the tickets expire is largely shut out because of the unique challenges caused by the pandemic.

“In the current financial year, management has expressed significant judgments in relation to recognition of revenue on unused tickets, in view of extensions in ticket expiries and refund options offered to passengers as a result of the Covid-19 disruption to the aviation sector,” PwC said in its report.