Inside Politics

IATA urges Kenya to cut Sh8,800 PCR test fee to boost air travel

Wednesday, September 29th, 2021 00:00 |
Kenya Airways and Kenya Airport Authority staff. Photo/COURTESY

CHARGES: International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged the Kenyan government to use all mechanisms at its disposal to encourage air travel, including reductions in Covid-19 test charges.

Regional vice president for Africa and Middle East Kamil Al Awadhi said Kenya’s air transport recovery is stalling and requires ongoing support.

“Among the interventions, we are urging Kenya’s government to reduce the cost of PCR tests for travellers, which, at roughly $80 (Sh8,834) each, is significantly higher than the average in Africa,” he said in a statement.

Al Awadhi said the high cost of tests has become a major deterrent and a drag on the recovery of Kenya’s air transport and tourism sectors.

Alternative solution

“An alternative solution would be to permit the use of more cost-effective antigen tests,” he added.

Airline passenger traffic to, from and within Kenya fell by 52 per cent in June 2021 from June 2019.

The picture was similar for the first half of 2021, with passenger volumes having declined by 54.2 per cent as compared to the first half of 2019.

According to Awadhi, the next two years should see stronger recovery as Kenya’s vaccination rate improves and more countries reopen their borders to the country.

He said expensive charges and inconsistent requirements for PCR tests undermine the confidence in air travel, adding that affordable tests will prompt more people to travel by air again.

According to IATA’s latest passenger survey, 86 per cent of respondents are willing to get tested, though 70 per cent also believe that the cost of testing is a significant barrier to travel, while 78 per cent believe governments should bear the cost of mandatory testing.

Apart from reducing the Covid-19 test fees, Awadhi named other key priorities to support and sustain the recovery of Kenya’s air transport and tourism sector as need to digitise health certificates and increasing intra-Africa connectivity.

“As passenger numbers increase in the recovery, digitally managing travel health credentials will be essential to avoid queuing and crowding airports.

The IATA Travel Pass and the African Union’s Trusted Travel Pass are both tools that can help governments efficiently and conveniently verify traveler health credentials,” said Awadhi.

He said pre-pandemic, African Union’s Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) was intended to unlock travel within the continent, while post-pandemic it will provide an even more important economic boost.

“Full implementation of SAATM across the continent would generate significant economic benefits for Kenya, namely creating 39,000 new jobs and adding $201 million (Sh22.2 billion) to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

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