A report published by Business Daily on Monday, February 10, indicated that the China Southern Airlines pulled the plug on all four of its weekly direct flights from Nairobi to two cities in China four days after one of its planes was held at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) for about 9 hours.
The airline also froze travel reservations until the end of June following the outbreak of the virus that led to travel restrictions against the Asian powerhouse with many airlines around the world suspending flights into the mainland.
So far there have been 40,649 cases of the virus, with 40,197 people infected in China alone. About 910 deaths have also been confirmed so far, according to a live update.
The Chinese airline cancelled the two weekly flights from Nairobi to Changsha, a route that was introduced in June of 2019 in response to increasing travel demands from China to Africa. The airline operated the weekly service on Sundays and Wednesdays.
It also halted the Monday and Friday direct flights from Nairobi to Guangzhou.
The changes are set to last until March 28, 2020, according to the airline’s marketing manager Belinda Agwena.
Passengers however still have the option of travelling from Kenya to China and back using airlines with connecting hubs in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
The move comes just 10 days after national carrier Kenya Airways announced the suspension of its flights to Guangzhou, China. The airline operates two non-stop flights on the Nairobi-Guangzhou route three times weekly.
The decision by Kenya Airways and China Southern to suspend its flights follows a decision by several other airlines to either suspend or reduce the frequency of flights to and from China.
The airlines include Air Canada, American Airlines, Air Asia, Japan Airlines, British Airways and Qatar Airways, among more than 20 others.
The cancellation of the direct flights could aggravate supply chain disruptions following the Chinese government’s decision to impose a lockdown on the country. Most of the factories in the regions affected by the virus in China have been forced to close down, a move that could affect trade in Kenya.
China Southern Airlines is part of the ‘big three’ airlines in China alongside Air China and China Eastern Airlines. It is also the world’s seventh-largest airline measured by passengers carried, as well as Asia’s largest airline in fleet size, revenue, and passengers carried.
The airline is headquartered in Baiyun District, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China and has a codeshare deal with Kenya Airways, allowing effortless connectivity for passengers to other destinations in Africa.