Tanzania locks out three more Kenyan airlines over Coronavirus standoff

Wednesday August 26 2020

 

By By Alex Malanga @ChiefMalanga news@tz.nationmedia.com

Dar es Salaam. Three more Kenyan airlines have been banned in Tanzania as the two countries’ apparent standoff over management of Covid-19 deteriorates.  

Authorities in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday, August 25, 2020, issued the ban against AirKenya Express, Fly540 and Safarilink Aviation, all domesticated in Nairobi. 

Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) director general Hamza Johari confirmed the development today, Wednesday August 26, 2020, when reached by The Citizen.

"The basis of the decision to nullify our approval for the three Kenyan airlines is the ongoing dispute between the two countries," said Mr Johari via a telephone interview with The Citizen.

The two East Africa Community member countries are locked in a disagreement over the handling of passengers arriving from Tanzania, with views of each of the countries unacceptable with the other. 

On August 1, 2020, TCAA banned Kenya's national carrier, Kenya Airways (KQ) from flying into Tanzania, a decision which the regulator said was on a reciprocal basis after Kenya omitted Tanzania from a list of countries that would see arriving passengers face less health restrictions for fear of Covid-19 infections.   

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Kenya has since expanded the list to 100 countries whose arriving passengers are allowed to enter Kenya without the mandatory 14 days quarantine. Tanzania was still missing from the list. 

Before Tuesday’s ban, AirKenya Express and Fly540 each flew to Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar seven times a week. Safarilink Aviation had most of the trips, operating seven frequencies on each of its Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar routes per week.

The companies had not reacted to the ban as at today, August 26, 2020. Kenya Airways on its part said recently that the matter was being handled between the two countries before it could know when to resume flights.

KQ, which 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 travelers between the two destinations. 

Mr Johari said the ban on the Kenya’s four airlines will not be lifted unless air travelers from Tanzania were included in the list of the countries whose passengers are exempted from quarantine.

“Some countries are allowed to enter Kenya without the same condition despite having a very high rate of Covid-19 infections,” he told The Citizen.

Mr Johari said it was surprising that Tanzania which he said is safe from the pandemic did not make the cut in Kenya’s clear list. “What message are they sending to the world about Tanzania?”

On Tuesday, August 25, 2020, tourism operators in Tanzania appealed to the government to speak to the countries still enforcing the 14 days quarantine to review the decision as it was frustrating ongoing efforts to re-open the tourism sector which is Tanzania’s second highest forex earner after gold, roping in $2.4 billion in 2018 alone.