KQ suspends London route ticket sales on airport crisis

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KQ suspends London route ticket sales on airport crisis


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A Kenya Airways aircraft at JKIA. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya Airways has suspended the sale of tickets from London to Nairobi, as pressure from the Heathrow crisis hits the national carrier.

The suspension follows a directive by Heathrow Airport instructing airlines to freeze outbound bookings until September, as it grapples with a surge in the number of passengers using the facility amid a shortage of manpower to manage the situation.

The turmoil in London, says the carrier’s top executive, may also see the national carrier cancel some flights to the UK in line with the new requirement by Heathrow, which is one of the world’s busiest airports.

KQ managing director Allan Kilavuka told Business Daily that they will not make new bookings going forward until the ban is lifted, but will fly passengers who had already made earlier reservations.

“They have asked us to close new sales from London, which means we should only fly the tickets already sold up to now,” said Mr Kilavuka.

Heathrow has capped the number of passengers who can depart from the airport to 100,000 daily to manage travellers at the security checks and minimise delays that could see them miss their connecting flights.

The summer period in Kenya, which normally starts around July and extends to August normally records high bookings from international tourists, however, the last two years have not been good for the country’s tourism sector owing to Covid-19 restrictions that discouraged people from travelling.

Last year, a total of 53,000 visitors toured the country from the UK, placing Britain at position four in terms of the leading tourists that visited Kenya, behind the US, Uganda and Tanzania.

Major airports in Europe have been grappling with a sharp rise in the number of passengers on the back of a shortage of workers, as the airlines and aerodromes struggle to recruit back after cutting jobs at the height of Covid-19 in 2020.

Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam has already capped Kenya Airways’ outbound passenger capacity at 22 percent per flight this summer forcing the carrier to fly with empty seats despite high demand.

The disruption in Europe comes at a time when the carrier has been making some progress in terms of revenue, however, the latest turmoil in the industry could see the airline take longer to revert to profitability.

KQ narrowed its net loss for the year ended December by 56.58 percent on higher revenue as travel picked up with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

The national carrier reported a net loss of Sh15.8 billion in the review period compared to a net loss of Sh36.2 billion the year before when travel restrictions hit operations hardest, including the grounding of its planes for months.

Total revenue in the review period bumped 32.98 percent to Sh70.22 billion, partly lifted by alternative sources such as air charter services which jumped 300 percent and helped compensate for income lost because of travel restrictions on some routes.

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