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Airlines, SGR and PSV operators gear up for re-opening of economy

Kenya Airways and Jambojet expect to resume on Monday.

In Summary

•Jambojet to commence with local routes with ticket prices currently starting at Sh4,800 while Airkenya plans to resume July 1.

•SGR and long distance buses to commence immediately government removes restrictions.

Passengers at the Nairobi terminus going to board the SGR passenger train to Mombasa./
Passengers at the Nairobi terminus going to board the SGR passenger train to Mombasa./
Image: FILE

Players in the aviation, rail and long-distance passenger service vehicles are anxious about a return to operations as the government mulls over a partial re-opening of the economy from next week.

While  unveiling the Sh54 billion economic recovery plan, President Uhuru Kenyattta said: “We cannot be under a curfew or lockdown forever.”

Last week, Transport CS James Macharia said Kenya Airways is expected to commence passenger operations on Monday (June 8), which in the domestic market can only be possible if the cessation of movements in and out of Nairobi and Mombasa is lifted.

 
 

A meeting between the government and private sector, chaired by Interior CS Fred Matiang’i hinted the government is considering reducing curfew hours to between 9 pm and 5 am.

It also plans to open inter-county movement on a controlled programme and open up travel including domestic airlines, airports, trains and train stations, buses, and tour vehicles.

With indications of te reopening Kenya Airways, the Standard Gauge Railway and public transport players mainly long-distance operators are gearing up to resume operations.

KQ, as it is known by its international code, is preparing to commence scheduled domestic flights from Nairobi to Mombasa,  Kisumu and Eldoret.

Since the ban on local and international flights in March,  the 7 pm-5 am nationwide curfew KQ grounded most of its 36 aircraft.

They include nine Boeing 787 Dreamliners, 10-Boeing 737 aircraft, and 17 Embraers.

CEO  Allan Kilavuka has since said the airline will commence with less frequency when skies open, before expanding.

 
 

“We start with domestic and regional flights at a reduced frequency and then introduce some long haul at reduced frequency and change based on demand,” Kilavuka said.

This will be a boost to the airline which has been losing an estimated Sh9.3 billion in revenue monthly after the suspension of flights.

A week ago, it announced a net loss of Sh12.9 billion for the financial year ended December 31, 2019.

Jambojet is also preparing to take back to the skies.

“Operations will resume once the ban is lifted. As at now, we plan on starting operations on June 8, ” management told the Star, “We will start with the local destinations.”

Ticket prices are currently starting at Sh4,800.

Airkenya plans to resume starting on July 1.

“Due to the uncertainty regarding the reopening of international borders coupled with the fact that most of the lodges in the destinations that we fly into are closed, the restart date for our operations will hereby change from June 2 to July 1, 2020,” it said.

Passenger services on the SGR Madaraka express will commence immediately the government opens up movement, Kenya Railways managing director Phillip Mainga told the star.

“We are ready to operate. Any time we get a go-ahead from government, we shall resume operations,” Mainga said, with resumption expected to be with the normal four daily trains between Nairobi and Mombasa (two from either ends).

Road transport sector which has been facing losses of up to Sh840 million a day, and up to Sh40 billion a month, is another sector looking forward to reopening the economy.

All long-distance operators linking major towns of Mombasa, Nairobi, Kisumu to other parts of the country, and the region suspended passenger operations.

Yesterday, Mash East Africa, one of the leading bus companies operating in Kenya and the region, said it was more than ready to resume passenger operations, albeit on control measures that will see it carry half the capacity to meet social distancing requirements.

“All our buses have continuously been serviced and maintained even though they have not been traveling. Once it is clear to move, we are good to go,” general manager Lennox Shalo told the Star on phone.

The company has at least 60 buses operating in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.

Instead of 44 passengers, we will be carrying about 24 passengers per bus,” he said.

Opening up of inter-county movement will be good news for the entire public transport sector where according to the Matatu Owners Association chairman Simon Kimutai, over 60,000 matatus and buses operate on a normal day, each raking in an average Sh15,000.

Social distancing is expected to continue being observed on all modes of transport, with aircraft, buses, matatus, and trains operating with empty seats between passengers to reduce the chances of Covid-19 spread.

Temperature checks and sanitizing will be mandatory at all boarding and arrival stations, industry players have noted.