Pressure piles on KQ as global airlines suspend China flights

At least 14 major airlines have suspended flights to cities in China, among them Lufthansa, British Airways, American Airlines and Air Tanzania over coronavirus.

In Summary

•KQ has said it is not suspending its operations and instead, it will continue to monitor developments on the virus in Wuhan Province, China.

•Kenya Tourism Federation,Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU) and the Kenyan Embassy in China have all called for temporary suspension of flights until the virus is contained.


Kenya Airways is under pressure to suspend flights to China amid growing concern over the continued global spread of the deadly coronavirus.

KQ, as it is known by its international code, has said it is not suspending its operations and instead, it will continue to monitor developments on the virus in Wuhan Province, China.

This is despite calls by the Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU), tourism players and the Kenyan Embassy in China to temporarily halt flights.


We have implemented additional precautionary measures to ensure that our staff and customers are safe. These include screening of all passengers at the Guangzhou Airport,” management said in a statement.

According to the BBC, the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has risen to 170, and a confirmed case in Tibet means it has reached every region in mainland China.

Chinese health authorities said there were 7,711 confirmed cases in the country as of 29 January.

Infections have also spread to at least 15 other countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) will meet on Thursday to again consider whether the virus constitutes a global health emergency.

Air Tanzania has put on hold its maiden flight from Dar es Salaam to China over the virus. It had planned to begin charter flights next month.

Lufthansa, British Airways, American Airlines and Indonesian airline-Lion Air Group have suspended flights to cities in China.

Others are FinnAir, United Airlines(US), Air Canada, South Korea's Air Seoul, Air India and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific.

The Kenya Tourism Federation(KTF), which represents seven sector bodies in the country, yesterday criticised KQ for continuing to fly to China, despite travel risks that could expose the country to the virus.

KTF Chairman Mohammed Hersi said major airlines from countries with better health systems have suspended flights to China, yet KQ continues to fly even as the country remains unprepared for handling the virus.

“Better be safe than sorry. Let's not pretend we can deal with it (coronavirus). It will be terrible if it lands here and we never took the necessary measures. It will be disastrous,” Hersi said yesterday.


KQ operates a Boeing 787-8 with a maximum capacity of 234 passengers on the Nairobi Guangzhou route with a stop over in Bangkok.

Our position remains the same. We demand that KQ suspends flights to China until the scourge of coronavirus is brought under control,” KAWU Secretary-General Moss Ndiema told the Star.

Kenya's high risk of being affected is based on the volume of air traffic between Kenya and China, which is an merging key tourist market source for the country.

It was the sixth top source in 2019 with a total of 84,208 visitors to Kenya, Tourism Research Institute data shows.

“China is a significant market for us. Anything happening there, we are concerned,” KAHC executive officer Sam Ikwaye said.

KQ management says it remains in consultation with the Ministry of Health as it evaluates options. Meanwhile, its crew have been trained and sensitised on how to handle the situation,it said.

“Passengers from Wuhan and surrounding districts will only be accepted on our flights after clearance by the Guangzhou Airport health authorities,” KQ corporate communications said.

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star