About five months ago, the experience onboard was different.
One would only present a visa and or other few documents required for travel and jump onto that flight. There were no masks and, subsequently, no rigorous clearance processes.
But since the Covid-19 pandemic, things have changed. The experience of being airborne being significantly affected by the scourge.
Apart from the mandatory Covid-19 free certificate before boarding, there are the temperature checks.
About a week ago, Kenya joined other countries which have resumed international flights after their suspension in mid-March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Covid 19 Time Series
Maureen Muthaura is one of the few Kenyans who had the first experience of flying under the new post-Covid-19 guidelines.
“You are first of all required to have a negative polymerase-chain-reaction (PCR) test certificate. This should happen 96 hours before travel,” says Muthaura about her flight to Kenya.
According to the recruitment expert, the journey from Indonesia through Dubai back home was a safe one.
“All flight attendants had their masks on and other personal protective equipment too. This stayed this way for the rest of the journey,” adds Muthaura.
While their flight services remain unchanged, something else had to be added on their to-do list — providing and making sure all passengers have their masks at all times.
All aboard were given kits with hand sanitizer, rubber gloves, and masks, among other weapons against infection
Interestingly, there is little regard to social distancing protocols on board. The passengers are allowed to sit close to one another as they used to before the new normal.
Aircraft manufacturer Boeing says this move is safe since all passengers are Covid-19 negative.
“Where social distancing isn’t possible, we have other protective countermeasures in place to protect the passenger travel. We are working with the industry to put the multilayers protection for the air travel journey,” said Jim Haas, the Director of Product Marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
“The four-seaters were all occupied. All rows were filled in our flight from Dubai to Kenya. It is only for the business class where the passengers were allowed to sit sparsely, “says Muthaura.
One is also required to log in their health details to the Ministry of Health of Kenya website before landing. The airport would later produce the generated code upon disembarking for confirmation.
“The whole check out process, from landing to exit, took me about four hours. The process at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) is a little tedious as only thirty people are allowed to disembark at a time,” adds Muthaura.
The batch of thirty went through the temperature checks.
However, Maureen notes that there is no clear protocol on whether one should self-quarantine after leaving the airport.
Before the international flights, the country had been warming up the engines with local flights that operated two weeks before the international ones.
To revive the economy, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that domestic flights would return to allow movement in the country that had stalled.
“Local air travel shall resume effective July 15 in strict conformity with protocols from both the Ministry of Health and civil aviation management,” he said.
The directive was followed by regular inspections in airports to check the level of preparedness for the big restart.
Cabinet Secretaries to the Ministry of Transport and Tourism James Macharia and Najib Balala, toured the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) and the Moi International Airport (MIA) in Mombasa before allowing resumption.
However, cargo flights have been in operation, supplying goods from other countries to sustain the demand.