Kenya has declined an application by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to increase flights from Dubai to Nairobi, and vice versa.
In a move seen to protect the national carrier Kenya Airways, Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the government had resolved to deny Emirates unrestricted flights from the two cities.
Currently, Emirates makes 14 trips per week from Dubai to Nairobi and vice versa. But combined; trips from all airlines hailing from the UAE, including Etihad and Qatar Airways, are 28 per week.
The CS who was appearing before a Senate committee explained that his decision was aimed at protecting national interests given that the current air services agreement between the two countries was “one-sided and favoured Emirates”.
He also highlighted the prioritisation of payment of a Sh75 billion Kenya Airways debt as another factor. “The request by Emirates for us to allow them more frequencies will not be allowed. As long as I am the CS I will not allow it. The aviation business between Dubai and Nairobi is one sided and favours Emirates,” stated Macharia when he appeared before the Senate Roads and Transport committee.
The Senator Kimani Wamatangi-led committee was probing the alleged breach of an air services deal signed in 2002 and trade imbalance between Kenya and UAE following a statement sought by Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni).
Macharia explained that the seating capacity of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar was 15,400 against Kenya Airways’ 5,510. Secondly, he said, the number of passengers had gone down since Covid-19 set in, translating to reduced income for Kenya.
“The three airlines benefit from subsidies but we do not. This means they are able to subsidise their seat fares which we cannot do to match them. They can almost fly for nothing because they are heavily subsidised.