By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy
Kenya Airways, a member of the Sky Team Alliance leading African airlines flying over 60 destinations worldwide has finally complied to temporarily suspend all its commercial flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone.
In an operation up-date released by the airline on Saturday, August 16, the airline said the operational decision takes effect on tomorrow, Tuesday August 19 beginning at midnight and said the decision is based on the situation risk assessment of Kenya’s Ministry of Health.
The airline expressed regrets to customers booked on the suspended flights for disrupting their travel plans and promised to provide a full refund of all tickets earlier booked and paid for prior to the suspension.
In the statement released, the airline said, “As we have indicated before, we are dependent on expert advice for our continued operations from the Ministry of Health and WHO. Kenya wishes to confirm that we will comply with the advice to suspend our commercial flight operations to Liberia and Sierra Leone.”
The provision of the air transport services during such critical moments remains a crucial component of the outbreak containment and overall management as at the height of the Ebola outbreak, Kenya Airways has remained a key air transport solutions provider which had earlier promised that its door will remain opened to its guests even in countries plagued with the virus.
“I wish to confirm that Kenya Airways will continue operating all its scheduled flights to Nigeria and Ghana. However, in the interest of public safety for both our esteem guests and staff, we reserve the right to cancel our flights to any other destination should the situation warrant,” Kenya Airways Group Managing Director and CEO, Titus Naikuni said.
However, on August 12, Kenya Airways up-date said WHO stated that the risk of a tourist or businessman becoming affected with Ebola virus to visit the affected areas and developing disease after returning is extremely low.
The WHO said according to Kenya Airways the transmission requires direct contact with blood, secretion, organs or other body fluids of infected living or dead persons or animals, all unlikely exposures for the average traveler.
The KQ airlines promised to continue to maintain several precautionary measures which included educating all its staff especially those in Liberia and Sierra Leone on Ebola and how it is transmitted and how to keep safe.
The airline also supplied and trained its crew members on how to use the Universal Precaution Kits (UPKs) as well as give them up to date briefing before departure and upon arrival back home adding that, “So far, Ebola has not been declared an epidemic or pandemic.”
It is not clear in the recent operational up date released if the virus has been declared an epidemic or Liberia and Sierra Leone a no go zone, because its statement of up date released on August 12 said, “Withdrawing our flights to these key destinations given the safeguard already placed by the respective governments and global health authorities would amount to a corporate placement of unnecessary travel advisory.”