Friday, December 1, 2023

How JKIA has turned into a national shame

On November 11, 2023, the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) suffered a power outage that added to the pile of bad news coming out of Kenya’s biggest airport.

The power outage followed a near-nationwide power outage. At the JKIA, this outage lasted for between eight and twenty minutes before backup generators were activated.

This outage was not the first of its kind. On August 25, an even more prolonged outage hit the airport, and exposed that the airport had problems with backup power. This outage led to the firing of top managers at the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA).

This blackout had started at around 9.30pm and lasted for a whole night across the country, and for more than two hours at the JKIA, leaving hundreds if not thousands of travellers stranded.

Critical processes that included immigration clearances and baggage handling ground to a halt.

At the same time, the airport’s luggage hall at the Terminal 1E which serves all international flights apart from Kenya Airways and the Skyteam code-sharing partners has become a permanent eye sore yet it was initially supposed to be a temporary measure after a fire incident that occurred at the airport in 2013. Initially, this luggage hall was supposed to allow the KAA to renovate Terminal 1C.

In addition, it is only recently that the JKIA subjected the country to yet another embarrassing episode. The airport has only one, single runway that in April paralysed operations for nearly a whole day.

It all started in the morning hours on April 17, 2023 when a Singapore Airlines B747 cargo plan developed problems while on the runaway. The plane’s engines are reported to have caught fire, which cause eleven tyres to burst. This meant that the plane could not be towed from the runaway.

This forced the KAA to re-route planes that were schedule to land at JKIA. Planes that were scheduled to depart were delayed. This happened because since construction, the JKIA has been relying solely on one runaway.

It is not lost on Kenyans that in October 2022, Murkomen had announced that the government would revive the multi-billion JKIA Greenfield Terminal project that was canceled by the government of former president Uhuru Kenyatta, the government that Murkomen and current president Dr. William Ruto were part of.

However, there has been no news on any proposal for the construction of a second terminal ever since this ‘promise’ was made by the CS Transport.

At the same time, Kenyans traveling in and out of the country have been complaining that the JKIA has turned into a hub of corruption and harassment. Allegedly, this has been forcing many traveling Kenyans to also budget for bribes in order to have an easy time when using the JKIA.

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The latest incidents of harassment have involved customs officers from the Kenya Revenue Authority who have been accused of breaching passenger privacy and decency, and common sense in their pursuit of taxable items.

Already, incidents of tax harassment involving mobile phones and wedding dresses have been reported, with the KRA acknowledging the saga that revolved around a wedding dress.

Passengers have reported spending close to two hours after landing as the custom officials hold lengthy queues in search of taxable items.

Amidst all this, the biggest question for many Kenyans is how the very institution that portrays the fist impression of Kenya to visiting passengers has been so neglected and in alleged occasions, turned into a corruption and harassment hub.

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