Tanzania on Wednesday August 26 banned three more Kenyan airlines from its airspace as the standoff over the management of COVID-19 escalates.
This comes barely three weeks after the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) banned the national carrier, Kenya Airways, from its territory over COVID-19 protocols.
TCAA nullified the approval granted to Fly 540, AirKenya Express and Safarilink Aviation. The three airlines operate daily flights to and from Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar.
“Reference is made to the approval for your summer schedule application extended to Air Kenya Express. The approval was granted to Air Kenya for schedule flight operations between Nairobi and Kilimanjaro with effect from March 27 to October 25. However, we regret to inform you that this approval is hereby nullified,” TCAA director general Hamza Johari ordered in the letter to Air Kenya’s operation manager.
TCAA did not give any reasons as to why it was nullifying the approvals, only informing the airline that this notice now rescinds any previous approval allowing it to fly to Tanzania.
“You will therefore be allowed to apply afresh for any operations into Tanzania before consideration can be made,” Mr Johari said.
“The basis of the decision to nullify our approval for the three Kenyan airlines is the ongoing dispute between the two countries,” Mr Johari told The Citizen newspaper.
“The ban on Kenya’s four airlines would not be lifted unless air travellers from Tanzania are accorded the same treatment as those on the list. Some nationalities can enter Kenya without the same condition despite having extremely high rates of COVID-19 infections.”
The two neighbouring states are locked in a disagreement over the handling of passengers arriving from Dar es Salaam, after Kenya excluded Tanzania from the list of countries whose nationals would be allowed entry under revised coronavirus restrictions.
Early this month, TCAA rescinded the approval of the 14 weekly flights by Kenya Airways into the country until further notice. The Tanzania aviation agency reveed that it had revoked approval granted to Kenya Airways to resume international flights to Tanzania “on reciprocal basis”.
The retaliation was a reaction to Kenya’s omission of Tanzania from the list of countries allowed to resume international flights into Kenya, after Nairobi insisted all passengers from Tanzania must be quarantined upon landing in Nairobi. Last week, Nairobi expanded the list to 100 countries whose nationals are allowed entry without the mandatory 14-day quarantine. Tanzania is still missing from the list.
On Tuesday August 25, Kenya reiterated its stand that all high risk categorized tourists visiting the country including Tanzanians will have to undergo 14 days quarantine.
Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said that the Kenyan and Tanzanian governments are working towards a modality that will see its national carriers, Kenya Airways and Precision Air resume operations between the two countries.
“We are working on it, we will have Precision Air and KQ travel between the two countries very soon,” Mr Balala said.