Published On: Tue, Nov 11th, 2014

Ebola crisis has not hit passenger arrivals to Kenya

The ban of flights to and from some countries in West Africa due to the Ebola outbreak has not shaken arrivals from Africa at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Kenya’s biggest entry point.

The number of passengers coming into the East African nation from the continent through its main airport remains high despite the ban that affected flights to three countries, according to new data.

Kenya in mid-August banned flights to and from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone “in the interest of public health.” The World Health Organization had then cited Kenya as high-risk of Ebola attack because it is a crucial travel hub for passengers headed to various parts of the continent.

In the wake of the government ban, Kenya Airways, the national carrier, suspended all its flights to the three countries.

The airline had initially resisted pressure from health experts and the public to cancel the flights on the major route. Nigeria, the biggest contributor of passenger arrivals at JKIA from West Africa was, however, not affected by the ban over Ebola.

Ebola, a fever accompanied by haemorrhage has a fatality rate of up to 90 percent and has so far claimed about 5,000 people mainly in West Africa. Deaths, however, have also been reported in Spain, U.S. and Germany.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data for September, in August, when the ban took effect, JKIA received 36,975 passengers from Africa.

This was a slight drop from the previous month’s 37,106 passengers. In September, the second month of the travel ban, the number of passenger arrivals at JKIA from Kenya stood at 36,907. On average, Kenya records 37,000 passenger arrivals at JKIA every month from Africa.

Kenya, however, recently started direct flights to Abuja, Nigeria as business and bilateral ties between the countries surges. Kenya Airways has also resumed flights to Liberia.

“The number of passengers from Africa has not gone down because of two things. First, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, do not contribute a huge number of passengers to Kenya, Nigeria does. Second, Kenya receives many passengers from other parts of Africa, ” Nairobi-based economics lecturer Henry Wandera said on Sunday.

The Ebola crisis equally has not affected passenger arrivals at JKIA from other parts of the world, in particular Europe and Asia.

In August, according to KNBS, Kenya received 28,923 passengers from Asia. The number of arrivals rose significantly in September to 29,667. The Ebola crisis saw Korean Airlines suspend flights to and from Kenya in August as a measure to prevent spread of the virus.

Arrivals from Europe to Kenya have also not been affected, with Kenya receiving 36,361 passengers in August from the region. The number declined to 33,408 in September but this cannot be attributed to the Ebola crisis.

Most of the passengers who come to Kenya from the region are tourists, and September is not a peak season. Besides, East African nation has been hit by travel advisories issued by Britain, U.S, France and Australia due to insecurity challenges brought about by the Somali militant group the Al-Shabaab.

Overall, in August and September, 174,499 and 171,671 passengers respectively landed at JKIA from different parts of the world.

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