New Normal: How Flying During Covid-19 Has Changed

  • Transport Cabinet Secretary (CS) James Macharia flagging off a Kenya Airways flight on July 15, 2020.
    Transport Cabinet Secretary (CS) James Macharia flagging off a Kenya Airways flight on July 15, 2020.
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  • Kenya is all set for the resumption of international flights on August 1. This article will provide an in-depth guide on all you need to know before flying in or out of Kenya.

    As expected, the Transport Ministry in conjuction with the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) have put in place new protocols to be observed during the Covid-19 epidemic.

    Lawrence Amukono, the Chief National Continous Monitoring Coordinator at KCAA and Peninah Njeri, the Manager Airworthiness recently provided a detailed look at how air transport will operate during the Covid-19 pandemic.

    The new protocols focus on the following areas: Airport, Aircraft, Cargo and Crew.

    Transport CS James Macharia, CAS Wavinya Ndeti and other officials during a press briefing on the transport protocols for public service transport at Transcom House, Nairobi on July 8, 2020.
    Transport CS James Macharia, CAS Wavinya Ndeti and other officials during a press briefing on the transport protocols for public service transport at Transcom House, Nairobi on July 8, 2020.
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    Airport

    KCAA has initiated protocols to ensure that airports are free of Covid-19.

    Measures have also been put in place to ensure that the personnel at the airport, both workers and passengers are able to operate within certain parameters.

    What pre-flight self-declarations and requirements shall travellers be required to meet?

    Only workers and travellers will be allowed at airports across the country, except for cases where travellers need special assistance.

    Passengers must read the terms and conditions detailed by the various airlines prior to booking.

    Travellers will be required to declare their recent travel history as well as any underlying medical conditions or symptoms.

    A passenger will also be required to provide an up-to-date Covid-19 certificate.

    Travellers will be screened at the airport prior to checking in or boarding the plane.

    The basic screening elements are those stipulated by the Ministry of Health (MoH).

    International passengers will not go through the rapid test on arrival, however, screening approaches will be upscaled at the terminal. 

    Upon arrival, Transport CS James Macharia assured travellers that boarding passes could be used at police roadblocks, in case one arrives past the stipulated curfew hours.

    Visitors to Kenya will have to produce a Covid-19-free certificate before they are allowed into the country. 

    “The protocol that you must be tested for Covid-19 certification before you leave the country where you are. You must have a negative certificate before you board the plane,” Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe stated during a press briefing in Mombasa on July 10.

    A photo of an immigration official serves travellers at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi.
    An immigration official serves travellers at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi.
    File

    Are airline personnel required to have additional certification?

    No. Airline staff will be operating under guidelines set out by the various operators to curb the spread of Covid-19.

    For example, KCAA proposed the provision of pre-packaged inflight meals to be served before departure which will limit the amount of crew-to-passenger infections.

    Crews have also been undergoing training on how to operate under the new normal.

    All airline operators will be required to develop procedures to be evaluated by the authority and once approved, mandatory training to be conducted to staff to ensure that they are all aware of the safety measures.

    What provisions have been set aside in case a passenger requires urgent medical attention?

    In a case where a passenger presents Covid-19 symptoms. The requirement is that all airlines must make provision for possible isolation of such passengers from the rest while on board.

    Amukono further explained that various airlines have been looking to set aside a section or a number of seats within the plane, that can be used to isolate any suspected case.

    Why is the physical distancing rule not efficient within the aircraft and does this pose a threat of contracting Covid-19?

    Physical distancing rule is not manageable within the aircraft and infection rates are low because the air quality in the cabin is guaranteed by the use of cabin recirculation High Efficient Particulate Air (HEPA).

    The approach towards ensuring the spread of the virus is ensuring that airport authorities can identify any potential Covid-19 positive individual before boarding the plane.

    Cargo & Aircraft

    All cargo will be sanitised prior to loading and at the point of arrival. KCAA further explained that all aircraft will require an extra level of certification before being cleared for a trip.

    This has been done to ensure that the aircraft is thoroughly sanitised and virus-free before letting in any passengers or crew.

    During his announcement of the resumption of international Flights, CS Macharia reiterated the need for passengers to provide a valid Covid-19 certificate, as failure to do so could lead to being denied entry into the airport.

    Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala on Sunday, July 26, announced that several airlines including Qatar Airways, Emirates, KLM, Air France and British Airways were all set to resume flights to the country.

    However, passengers were urged to check information including directives published by governments of the destination countries before travelling.

    British Airways will resume operations into and out of Nairobi from Saturday, August 1, while Qatar Airways and KLM will do so from Monday, August 3.

    Kenya Airways has already published its list of international flights.

    All passengers and crew are advised to follow all official instructions, abide by national health and safety measures, reconfirm all travel arrangements.

    In addition, individuals are urged to consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with Covid-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays.

    From left: President Uhuru Kenyatta, CS Matiang'i and CS James Macharia
    From left: President Uhuru Kenyatta, CS Matiang'i and CS James Macharia