Kenya-Dubai Diplomatic Tiff Wosens As Emirates Flight Are Banned

KEY POINTS:

  • Kenya and Dubai diplomatic tiff has worsened as Emirates flights are banned from entering into the country over an offensive letter.
  • Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia stated that the Emirates director-general wrote him a very offensive letter demanding more flights to be allowed into the country.
  • The CS said Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airlines, and Air Arabia—all designated to fly from the UAE—currently have a combined weekly seat capacity of 15,400 against Kenya Airways’ 5,510.

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Kenya and Dubai diplomatic tiff has worsened as Emirates flights are banned from entering into the country over an offensive letter.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia stated that the Emirates director-general wrote him a very offensive letter demanding more flights to be allowed into the country.

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“We got a letter recently from the director-general, Civil Aviation of Dubai, and not one written by United Arab Emirates (UAE) Minister. They told us not to fly aircraft that has the capacity of more than 220 seats to Dubai but they fly into Kenya aircraft with more than 400 seats,” he told members of the Senate Committee on Roads and Transportation on Wednesday.

“When we receive this kind of letters, they send a wrong message in terms of tactics the airline is using and shows that they do not respect Kenya,” the CS added.

CS Macharia stated that Emirates flights make 14 weekly trips to Kenya and are pushing to increase their frequencies.

“When you add Etihad Airlines and Air Arabia, in total they have 28 weekly flight frequencies against Kenya Airways’ seven,” he said.

The CS said Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airlines, and Air Arabia—all designated to fly from the UAE—currently have a combined weekly seat capacity of 15,400 against Kenya Airways’ 5,510.

“Giving them (Emirates) more flight capacity means they will get 90 percent of business between Nairobi and Dubai while KQ gets 10 percent. This is not tenable,” he said in response to questions filed by Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr.

The CS added that the government is determined to protect KQ from any threats to its survival.

“However, much they (Emirates) lobby, as Cabinet Secretary for Transport, I will not approve additional seats or flight frequencies for the UAE airlines,” he said.

The CS said the government’s decision is also informed by the number of passengers which went down as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Every airline is struggling. Giving Emirates additional frequencies will compound a difficult situation. We shall not agree even if they continue lobbying because this is not tenable,” Mr. Macharia said.

He argued that giving Emirates preference over KQ is risky as they can easily turn their backs in case of an emergency.

“When Covid-19 struck, we looked for airlines to evacuate our people but only KQ came in handy. We had to change the configuration of two KQ planes 747 to help us ship in vaccines because no airline wanted to help us,” Mr. Macharia said.

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