Travellers from East Africa to Dubai are now facing more stringent conditions, with airlines like Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines, which ply that route, staring at a slowdown in business in the festive season.
On Wednesday, Dubai through its Covid-19 Command and Control Centre (CCC), put travellers from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, Nigeria, Zambia, Cameroon, and Chad under new measures as it sought to control the spread of Covid-19.
Dubai’s decision came days after Ghana put in place strict measures, including a $3,500 fine for airlines ferrying unvaccinated passengers, and a requirement for a rapid PCR test on arrival at a cost of $150 per passenger.
Under the new measures by Dubai, travellers from Africa will now be required to provide a Rapid PCR test report conducted at the departure airport six hours before departure to Dubai.
This is in addition to a negative Covid-19 test certificate issued within 48 hours of arrival in Dubai.
The new rules, which apply to both passengers terminating their journey and those transiting through Dubai, are expected to spoil the party for Africans, most of whom prefer Dubai as a transit point, due to its interconnectivity and the lower fares charged by its national carrier, Emirates Airlines.
The new measures will also see passengers, including those in transit, undergo a PCR test upon arrival in Dubai and self-quarantine until a negative test result is out.
Kenya Airways Director of Operations Paul Njoroge told The EastAfrican that the carrier is now advising our passengers to arrive at the airport six hours before the flight to have a PCR test conducted in order to comply with the health protocols.
Airlines seeking to continue operating flights to Dubai are now required to submit for review, the description of the machine to be used for Rapid PCR test report. They will also be held liable — with possibility of fines — should they carry passengers who fail to fulfil the new measures.
“If the airline carries any passenger(s) who fails to meet the aforesaid requirements, the airline will be held responsible to return such passenger to the point of embarkation and also any other matters that may arise there from,” Dubai said in the statement.
The new measures are bound to hurt travellers from East Africa, who look to Dubai not only as a connecting hub but for business, and access to the Middle East, a job market for many EAC citizens.
Emirates Airlines operates from Dubai, flights to a network of at least 120 destinations, giving Africa the best connectivity options with the World. Its flights are also priced affordably, about 23 percent below its competitors’, making it a favourite of travellers from the region.
In 2019, Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport was the transit hub of choice for African travellers, mostly because of Ethiopian Airlines’ interconnectivity within the continent. But this changed when civil war broke out in the northern region of Tigray, with uncertainty pushing travellers back to Dubai.
The addition of Nigeria in the “red list” complicates Abuja-Dubai relations, as both countries squabble over flight frequencies and Covid-19 measures.
Last week, Emirates halted flights to Nigeria after Abuja reduced its weekly frequencies from 21 to one. The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority said: “We want to assure the public that national interests in all aviation matters will be jealously guarded and protected while regretting any inconvenience this action might [have] caused.”
The Emirates hit back.
“Emirates will be suspending its flights between Nigeria and Dubai until the UAE and Nigerian authorities work on a solution to the ongoing issue. We are committed to our operations in Nigeria and ready to reinstate services once restrictions are lifted by Nigerian authorities,” the airline said on December 10.
Emirates declined to comment on the recent measures that will affect its flights to Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda.
In Kenya, the Omicron variant is likely to hit transit passengers who use Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as a hub for connecting flights. With Dubai putting a blockade, and at least 30 countries instituting travel restrictions against African travellers, the airport is bracing for a drop in passenger numbers.
On December 1, Kenya Airways said it would not fly passengers coming in from southern Africa to Dubai after the UAE stopped admission of persons from southern Africa to their territory