As the aviation row between East African neighbours Kenya and Tanzania appears to have no immediate resolution in sight, the Rwanda flag carrier, RwandaAir has moved in to fill the vacuum left by four of Kenya’s airlines barred from flying to Tanzania.
The Kigali-based carrier has announced it will operate three flights to Dar es Salaam, coming as a relief to passengers who had to contend with longer distances to get to Tanzania.
Connecting through Rwanda remains the easiest option for passengers looking to fly to Tanzania at the moment.
“Dar es Salaam? Kilimanjaro? Nairobi? No problem, we will get you there,” the airline said on its website.
Tanzania stopped Kenya Airways (KQ), AirKenya Express, Fly540, and Safarilink Aviation from flying to Dar, Zanzibar, and Kilimanjaro after Nairobi excluded it from the list of safe countries whose citizens will not be subjected to mandatory 14 days quarantine on arrival.
The news comes just days after Tanzanian-based Precision Air said that it was suspending flights to Nairobi, just days after announcing the resumption of its services.
The airline was to resume flights from Dar es Salaam via Zanzibar to Nairobi and back yesterday, and it would have capitalised on the absence of KQ on the route.
Earlier Kenya Airways chief executive officer Allan Kilavuka said the Tanzanian route remains key to the carrier because of the traffic that they bring in the country for onward connection using the airline.
“We hope that this issue will be resolved fast,” said Mr Kilavuka.
Before the ban, Kenya Airways which operates from its regional hub at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, had a permit to fly 14 times to Dar es Salaam every week, three times to Kilimanjaro and two times to Zanzibar, mostly ferrying tourists and business travellers.
Tanzanian authorities have taken a controversially relaxed approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic and began reopening the country two months ago.
President John Magufuli’s refusal to impose lockdowns or physical distancing measures and to halt the release of figures on infections since late April, has made him a regional outlier and caused concern among Tanzania’s neighbours and the World Health Organisation.
Kenya’s latest COVID-19 red-list is likely to heighten the stand-off with its neighbour Tanzania — leading to more trade wars between the two nations.
Before the ban of the airlines, Kenya and Tanzania had been involved in retaliatory border blockades which affected thousands of truckers and cross border businesses.