Wilson Airport is the only one that recorded an upturn in cargo handled, by 15 percent from 190,325 tonnes to 218, 510 tonnes. This could be credited to more miraa being transported to Somalia and the Horn of Africa, following the highly contested product ban in the UK and the Netherlands.

Lokichoggio and Malindi airports did not handle any cargo in the period reviewed.

Despite the decline in local passengers and cargo volume, domestic aircraft flights (landings and take-offs) increased by two percent from 204,803 in 2016 to 207,831 in 2017. This was higher than international flights, which increased by only 0.5 percent from 93,029 to 93,497 in the same period. This could suggest that aircraft are carrying fewer goods and passengers than their capacity.

The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) registered a year-on-year increase in aircraft movements in airports and airstrips from 27,179 in July 2017 to 27,955 in July 2018.

The year-on-year figures show that JKIA was the busiest, at 9,874 flights in July this year, a six percent rise over the same period in 2016. The airport benefitted from enhanced flight frequencies by scheduled carriers as well as charter operations. Wilson Airport was the second busiest, with 9,612 movements. However, this was a decline of five percent from 10,092 flights last year, an observation KAA attributed to fewer test training flights.

Moi International Airport was third (2,332), followed by Malindi Airstrip (1,209) and Ukunda Airstrip (956). Whereas Moi International Airport recorded an increase in flights due to additional charters serving the tourism market on the Coast, Malindi’s was linked to increased training flights.

Isiolo Airport had the least activity, at 40 flights, a fall by a third from 61 in the same period last year. The Sh2.7 billion facility, launched in 2017 by President Kenyatta, is still operating below its capacity, handling only four flights a week since its opening, despite having an estimated capacity of 350,000 passengers annually. The KAA links the low activity to the discontinuation of scheduled Fly-SAX flights.

Tourism boom

Ukunda Airport had the highest increase in passenger traffic. The number of travellers who passed through the airport jumped by almost half from 11,759 to 17,348 passengers in July 2018, driven by increased tourism activity on the Coast. Wilson Airport, on the other hand, had its passenger traffic go up by 41 percent, a growth linked to the tourist activities at the Maasai Mara related to the wildebeest migration spectacle.

About two-thirds of international visitors in 2017 were on holiday, whereas 13 percent had jetted in for business-related engagements, and six percent were in transit.

It was not all bright in international travel though. While there was an upswing in international arrivals in the first half of 2017 over the previous year, the numbers fell in the second half, largely due to uncertainties around the prolonged electioneering period

The national flag carrier Kenya Airways blamed the unusually long campaign season for its shrinking turnover.

Read part two of the series on air safety and air crash investigation performance in the Sunday Nation tomorrow

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