KQ, RwandAir and Air Tanzania suspend flights to China over Coronavirus

Friday January 31 2020

Kenya Airways plane JKIA

Kenya Airways planes parked at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi. PHOTO | REUTERS 

ALLAN OLINGO
By ALLAN OLINGO
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Kenya Airways has suspended flights to Guangzhou, China over the Coronavirus, days after it said it was monitoring the situation.

The airline now joins RwandaAir and Tanzania’s national carrier Air Tanzania—which postponed its maiden flight over the viral outbreak.

In statement, KQ said it had taken the decision after consultations with the government, through the Ministry of Health and Foreign Affairs.

Further to our prior communication, we have temporarily suspended flights to and from Guangzhou effective January 31 until further notice. We however clarify that our service to Bangkok, Thailand remains operational,” the airline said.

The move comes barely hours after its workers, through the Kenya Aviation Workers Union (Kawu) threatened to lead its members in boycotting work if KQ doesn’t stop flying to china in the next few days.

“We call upon the management of KQ to exhibit some element of human feeling sensitivity and immediately suspend all flights to and from China to avoid exposing its employees to the risk of contracting the virus,” said secretary-general Moss Ndiema in a statement on Thursday.

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“If the management does not heed our call to suspend the flights, we shall have no alternative but to advise our members to stay away from operating the flights forthwith.”

On Wednesday, KQ said that it will not suspend its flights to China following the outbreak of the deadly virus.

The Kenya national carrier, known through its code name KQ, then instead said that it was closely ‘monitoring’ the situation before it takes any step.

“We are monitoring this on a very regular basis, as frequently as every one hour. We will make a decision in collaboration with the government on when and if when should suspend the flight,” the airlines acting chief executive officer Allan Kilavuka said.

Kenya Airways, which operates the Nairobi-Guangzhou route thrice a week via Bangkok, was in the news on Tuesday after one of its passengers from China was quarantined over the suspected deadly virus outbreak

“This is very important to us, not just for the China route but an entire network. It is a global issue and airlines are looking at it very seriously. We have taken precautionary measures right from boarding, to ensure that we do not allow on board anyone who hasn’t been cleared by port health bureau of China. So anyone from Wuhan city in China will not be allowed on our flights,” Mr Kilavuka said

“On top of that we are sterilizing our aircrafts while our crew use protective gears on the flight and off the flight while in China. We are in close collaborations with the port health of Jomo Kenyatta International airport and Guangzhou where we fly to as we seek to protect our passengers.”

A number of airlines have also stopped flying to China including Virgin Atlantic, Germany’s Lufthansa, Air France and KLM SA.

In the region, Tanzania announced Wednesday that it has postponed its maiden Air Tanzania flight to China, which was scheduled for February, citing concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

RwandAir on Friday also halted flights to and from China until further notice amid the haemorrhagic fever outbreak that has so far killed 213 in China and spread to 18 countries.

“RwandAir is to suspend flights with immediate effect between the Rwandan capital, Kigali, and the Chinese city of Guangzhou,” the airline said in a statement. “The decision will be reviewed later in February.”

Ethiopian Airlines on the other hand said that it would continue flying to China, serving its five destinations of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Hong Kong with the usual demand and supply adjustment.

“We are working together with relevant Chinese and Ethiopian Authorities to protect our passengers from the coronavirus disease,” Ethiopian Airline said in a statement.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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