HUNDREDS of passengers who were set to travel to or from Nairobi yesterday were left stranded after Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) was closed due to fire that devastated the arrival terminal.
In Kigali, atleast 300 passengers were stuck at Kigali International Airport after the fire, reported to have started at 4:35am yesterday morning, gutted the international arrivals terminal.
According to Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority, there are nine flights everyday between Kigali and Nairobi mainly by RwandAir and Kenya Airways (KQ).
Around 8,965 passengers ply the route in a month, with about 273 flights in a month.
RwandAir alone yesterday had three scheduled flights which were all cancelled.
Passengers who had booked their flights were forced to reschedule them as the service providers monitored the situation in Nairobi.
Robert Nsinga, Acting Senior Manager, Marketing, RwandAir said they were still waiting for the confirmation from Nairobi on when the airport would re-open.
“All the flights have been cancelled for today [yesterday] and our Kenyan office is ensuring that all passengers affected are served with either re-booking on the next available flight, re-routing to a different airport which is very dependent on the decision the Kenyan Civil Aviation Authority takes,” Nsinga said.
He further said they were considering rerouting passengers in Kigali to any other airport in the region that offers them convenient onward travel options.
The airport closure caused the cancellation of all flights routing to Nairobi, including regional and international flights.
The airport is the regional hub for East Africa, with many long-distance flights using Nairobi as connecting route to the rest of the world.
When The New Times visited the Kigali International Airport, several passengers were seen stranded.
“I had an appointment with doctor today [Wednesday] in Nairobi and I don’t know what am going to do now,” one said.
Cyprian Kabeera, the Rwanda and Burundi country manager of Air Uganda, said it was a big loss since all the flights from Entebbe to Nairobi were cancelled.
“It’s a huge loss and our passengers are stranded,” he noted
Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA) said it was ready to handle re-routed flights to Kigali.
“It is a tragedy that has negative effects on aviation in East Africa. RCAA is already using Flight Information Display Screens (FIDS) to inform travellers using the Kigali International Airport of the changes in flight activity and the operations department is ready to handle any diversions (of flights to Kigali as a result of the JKIA closure) until the situation normalises,” Tony Barigye, the authority spokesperson said.
The shutdown of JKIA saw several incoming flights re-routed to other airports inside Kenya and in neighbouring countries.
JKIA has direct flight connections to Europe, the Middle East, Far East and across the African continent with over 5 million passengers each year. The airport is served by 49 airlines.
It is the busiest in both East and Central Africa. By press time, Kenya State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu had announced that the domestic flights were set to resume.
“A time-frame for the resumption of international flights will be relayed later. However, the Kenya Civil Aviation has granted clearance for the use of Unit 3 for international departures and arrivals,” said Esipisu.