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Uproar Amongst Kenyans In Diaspora Over Kenya Airways Halting US Flights

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Kenyans living in the US and Canada expressed their disappointment over Kenya Airways’ (KQ) decision to drop direct flights to the US and China when it resumes international routes on August 1.

It was reported on Wednesday July 22 that the national carrier would be forced to cut the routes it serves by half to 27 due to the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some Kenyans living abroad say they had already booked their tickets and were hoping to return home as soon as possible.

A Kenya Airways plane taxiing at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Source: File

“I’m devastated by the news that KQ is cancelling flights from New York to Nairobi. In fact, I had already booked my ticket and was planning to fly on the first flight home from New York. I haven’t seen my mom in over a year and this is killing me,” Joan Wanjiru, a resident of Hamilton, Ontario in Canada told the Daily Nation.

Remington Osoko, a Kenyan-born resident of South Philadelphia, also lamented the move.

“I was really looking forward to going back home since I’m not doing anything in the US right now. I completed my studies at Temple university and can’t get a job because of my legal status,” he lamented. 

Others see the cancellation of US-Kenya flights as having major implications beyond the inconvenience of just traveling back home to see their families. 

“Trade between Kenya and the US stands at only $1 billion. This flight cancellation undermines the ongoing bilateral free trade agreement being negotiated between the US and Kenya to grow the volume of value added exports from Kenya into US markets” warned Prof David Onsarigo Monda of City University, New York. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta and US President Donald Trump. Source: DW

Prof Monda says the cancellation will likely damage the horticulture sector and Kenya’s tourism industry.

“Diplomatically, the flight cancelation disrupts direct access to two major global diplomatic centres in New York and Nairobi. New York hosts the UN headquarters while Nairobi hosts UNEP and Habitat. Kenya is also set to become a non-permanent member on the UN Security Council beginning January 2021. This flight cancellation sends all the wrong messages,” he added. 

He says this move also creates an added burden on diaspora students and business people who now have to deal with the hassle of getting visas to travel through Europe, the United Arab Emirates or even Qatar in order to get to Kenya or the US.

“Kenya’s regional aviation competitors (Ethiopian Airlines and Rwandair) will quickly move in to take up the slots abandoned by Kenya in the ultra competitive New York aviation market. Rwanda is finalising plans to fly direct (Kigali – New York) and Ethiopian will be looking to increase the frequency of its flights to the East Coast. All in all, this is a big loss for Kenya” he added.

File image of Ethiopian Airlines aircraft. Source: File

Domestic commercial and passenger flights resumed July 15 after travel restrictions were lifted while international travel is scheduled to resume on August 1, offering a boost to Kenya Airways which had lost an estimated Sh10.6 billion revenue.

The airline started direct flights to the US in October 2018, cutting the journey to just 15 hours on the long haul route.

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