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Lethal virus clips the wings of airlines

Wednesday August 13 2014

Public health officers at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport demonstrate on August 12, 2014, how they handle passengers from Ebola-hit west African countries at the gate reserved for travellers from those countries. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE |

Public health officers at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport demonstrate on August 12, 2014, how they handle passengers from Ebola-hit west African countries at the gate reserved for travellers from those countries. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

MAZERA NDURYA
By MAZERA NDURYA
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The suspension of flights from destinations in West Africa ravaged by the Ebola virus could affect the flow of traffic to the JKIA which receives over 70 flights from the region weekly.

Dubai’s Emirates has joined the list of airlines that have stopped flying to Guinea.

Citing the safety of its passengers as top priority, the airline said the suspension is indefinite, according to information posted on its website.

According to the International airlines association IATA and the World Health Organisation, several major airlines and international airports have started health screening of passengers on flights from West Africa.

The Emirates’ ban follows the issuing of guidelines from both the WHO and International Air Transport Association (IATA), which has also seen several major airlines and airports begin screening passengers.

Nigeria’s largest airline Arik Air, which flies to a limited number of international destinations including London, has stopped flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

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British Airways, another major player in the aviation industry, has suspended flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia, due to what they termed as the “deteriorating public health situation.”

The cancellation of these flights is set to have far-reaching implications on Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), the regional hub.

National carrier Kenya Airways, which flies 44 times a week to 10 cities in West Africa recently said its flights from the region are safe.

Meanwhile, Kenya Airways, will Thursday announce the fate of its operations in the Ebola-hit areas, outgoing KQ Chief Executive Officer Titus Naikuni said.

His successor Mbuvi Ngunze pointed out a number of measures that the airline has taken to protect its crew and to prevent the spreading the deadly virus to Kenya.

Mr Naikuni, in a statement, said KO’s top management are reviewing the facts about continued flights to West Africa in the face of advice from (IATA), WHO and the Ministry of Health.

“While none of these institutions have strongly advised that air operations should cease, Kenya Airways has followed the advise given as measures to mitigate risks associated with flying to the affected areas.

KQ’s management also takes cognizance of the sentiments coming from other stakeholders and is taking them into consideration in the aforementioned review process,” he said.