Tour operators count losses from JKIA upset in the millions

Tour operators have reported incurring losses in the millions of shillings from the flight disruption at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

Most agencies were forced into footing additional costs to cover the re-booking of cancelled flights and guests accommodation.

Bonfire Adventures, a local tour operator for instance saw 80 of its clientele base impacted directly by the airport disruption forcing management into drastic action to offer relief to its stranded guests.

“We had already facilitated up-front payments for the accommodation of guests prior to the disruption. We were able to recover some of the costs through insurance but did in the end incur an element of cash-compensation especially in cancelled flights,” Bonfire Adventures Chief Executive Officer Simon Kabu told Citizen Digital in a phone interview.

The Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA) however saw a more subdued impact on the operations of tour agents on the back of the unsettling play out at the JKIA to instead see a greater impact on the affected carriers.

The conglomerate of travel agents does however find a more mid to long-term impact in the near 12-hour turmoil at Kenya’s largest airport underscoring the disarray’s significance in the tourism-numbers outlook.

“The impact is much more long-term as people may begin doubting the destination. A guest that was caught up at the airport may chose to not travel through the hub again as they may think, we fail to handle affairs better,” said KATA’s Chief Executive Officer Nicanor Sabula.

Hundreds of travelers found themselves stranded at the JKIA in the wee hours of Wednesday as the Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU) began an industrial action to push out the respective C.E.O.’s for the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) and Kenya Airways in protest of the ongoing negotiations to marry the two firms.

KQ who saw a total of 121 individual flights affected by the go slow, with 37 cancelled flights was not immediately available for comment on the number of affected passengers.

JKIA has since moved on from the severance to resume standard operations in the region’s largest air hub.

Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani  did in the aftermath move to find a common ground in the stalled merger negotiations formulation a committee to mediate between KAWU, KAA and KQ.

The Employment and Labour Relations Court has responded in kind, extending suspensions to KAWU’s industrial action on Thursday, March 7 while pausing legal proceedings to the KAA/KQ merger probe to allow for the committee appointed by the Labour Ministry to find a solution to the ensuing dispute.

Industrial action by airport workers is however a common phenomena in the global scene with France as an example witnessing quite a considerable interruption to its air-transport service at its major airports in the recent past.