Kenya Airways slams KAA for delays in JKIA terminals upgrade

Terminal 1A at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport was initially for exclusive use by Kenya Airways and its partner airlines. [File, Standard]

Kenya Airways (KQ) has faulted Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) for the delays in completing two terminals at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

KAA started upgrading terminals 1B and 1C in January last year, a project that was expected to take a year to bring the two terminals at par with Terminal 1A.

One year and eight months later, the upgrade is yet to be completed.

When the refurbishing of the other two terminals started, traffic was diverted to Terminal 1A, which was meant for exclusive use by KQ and its partner airlines.

Terminals 1B and 1C, on the other hand, were for use by other international carriers flying into the country.

Other international flights were also rerouted to Terminal 2, which is used by smaller carriers plying local and regional routes.

Since the renovation started, the airport has experienced delays in processing passengers, with many now having to report to the airport earlier than the required two hours before flights.

“The situation at the airport is embarrassing for Kenya. Terminal 1A is severely congested during the morning and evening peak hours, and this is impacting the image of Kenya,” said KQ Chairman Michael Joseph during a virtual investor briefing on Wednesday in Nairobi.

“Everybody experiences delays, but an eight-month delay could just be due to lack of planning. It has an impact on not just us but all international airlines that are flying into Kenya.”

The carrier said the delays have proved costly during the peak season for the travel industry that runs between May and October.

KQ is now concerned that it might continue dealing with disgruntled customers during the December holiday season.

“This has impacted us significantly during the peak season, and we do not want this to happen again in November and December, which is a mini peak season,” said KQ Chief Executive Allan Kilavuka.

According to KAA, the project was geared at improving the ambience as well as processes such as check-in, security screening, retail operations and passenger lounge experience.

The unavailability of the two terminals has been complicated by other factors such as the intensified health screening procedures as the country fights the Covid-19 pandemic.

This has resulted in long queues, especially during the evening peak hours of between 8pm and 11pm.

KAA early this year warned travellers to expect delays in an update on intensified Covid-19 screening with passenger numbers going up as the industry continues to recover.

“KAA wishes to advise the travelling public and, in particular, international travellers to expect longer processing times and passenger queues during peak hours of 8pm-11pm at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s departure Terminal 1A,” said the authority in January.

At the time, it said the other two terminals would be ready by March.

“This situation has arisen partly due to intensified health screening procedures instituted to combat the Covid-19 pandemic coupled with significant traffic growth normally witnessed at this time of the year," it said.

"The unavailability of JKIA’s terminals 1B and 1C, which are at advanced stages of refurbishment, has compounded the situation...KAA is prioritising the ongoing refurbishment of JKIA’s Terminal 1B and C for completion within the next three months.”