Emirates was forced to cancel flights from Kenya to Dubai on Monday after the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority slapped a ban on all inbound and transit passengers from the African country. Emirates gave passengers just five hours notice before the directive came into effect at 10:30 am on Monday.
Giving no explanation why the directive had been issued, Emirates said it wasn’t allowed to carry passengers from Kenya to Dubai for at least 48-hours. Emirates currently only serves the Kenyan capital Nairobi with up to two daily flights.
In a statement, Emirates said it would continue flying passengers to Nairobi but flights would have to return to Dubai without any passengers onboard. The temporary ban may be connected with evolving Omicron travel restrictions and testing rules.
Last week, the UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Emergency Management Authority slapped an indefinite travel ban on the Republic of Congo due to Omicron fears. Emirates has also been forced to suspend inbound passenger flights from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia due to Coronavirus travel bans.
Dubai emergency management officials initially allowed flights from Kenya to continue but imposed tough new testing rules. Passengers were expected to take a PCR test within 48 hours of travel and a second rapid-PCR test within just six hours of flight departure.
The temporary passenger ban may have been imposed to give Emirates time to set up rapid testing facilities in Nairobi.
A similar testing rule imposed on Nigeria led to a bust-up between the Nigerian government and Dubai’s rulers and resulted in Emirates being banned from operating flights to Abuja and Lagos.
Flights were eventually allowed to restart last month but within weeks the two sides got into another disagreement, this time over slot allocations, that resulted in Emirates having its slot allocation slashed to just one weekly service to Abuja. Emirates rejected the offer and instead suspended all operations to Nigeria.
In a statement, the airline said of its decision: “Emirates is committed to its operations in Nigeria, and we stand ready to reinstate services once restrictions are lifted by the Nigerian authorities, ensuring travellers have more choice and access to trade and tourism opportunities in Dubai, and beyond to our network of over 120 destinations.”
Local media in Kenya report the latest travel ban might be connected with Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia’s recent decision to reject an application by Emirates to operate an unrestricted number of flights between Nairobi and Dubai.
Macharia complained the current arrangement was one-sided in favour of Emirates and was detrimental to national flag carrier Kenya Airways.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.