I hadn’t visited Lamu Island in over 15 years. When Jambojet, a subsidiary of Kenya Airways, recently resumed flights there after a four-year hiatus, I took advantage of the cheap fare of 7,100 Ksh (64 USD). Disposable. This was my third local flight this year after avoiding planes for all of 2020. Flying in the new normal has changed.
We flew from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi with a stopover in Mombasa. The one hour and 40 minute journey was smooth and uneventful, that’s how I like my air travel. No refreshments were served on board as per the Ministry of Health’s new Covid-19 guidelines for flights. Luckily there is a restaurant in the JKIA departure lounge so I had coffee and a snack before boarding. I noticed that there are hand sanitizer in several places, and I appreciate that the lounge has plenty of power outlets and USB ports for charging devices.
When we got on board, they were spraying Flight attendant disinfectant on our hands. The flight was full, with vacationers, families and individuals. No seats have been kept free for reasons of social distancing. The flight attendant announced that it was compulsory for everyone to wear masks during the entire flight, “and to make sure that the mouth and nose are covered,” said the flight attendant. I noticed that all passengers complied with it and the only exception were infants and children.
The flight attendant informed us that the cabin air is being disinfected every three minutes High Efficiency Particulate Air, a filtration system used by airlines to create a sterile environment.
I was happy to find a toilet on the plane. I understand that part of the Covid health protocols is to minimize surface contact, but it can be tricky if there are no washrooms on board and you have children or there are delays like we did on our return trip.
Getting out was controlled with only a few rows at a time, starting with the front seats. Only the cabin crew were allowed to open the overhead lockers.
On the return flight we had to fill in the Jitenge QRcode, the digital passenger locator form, to facilitate contact tracking in the event of exposure to Covid-19. < / p>
Each passenger had to present their completed health surveillance form to the health authorities before leaving the airport.
A few weeks before my flight to Lamu, I flew to Lodwar in Turkana County from Wilson Airport in Nairobi on the Skyward Express . I arrived at the airport around 6am for the 7.30am flight but found the small check-in area already crowded and untidy, but check-in was faster than I expected. Just like with JKIA, the seats in the Wilson departure lounge are marked for social distance.
No air filtration was mentioned on the plane so I opted for a double mask. The plane had a layover where passengers disembarked and others boarded at Eldoret. There was neither refreshment nor a toilet on board.
On another trip to Vipingo on the Kenyan coast, I flew with Safarilink with a stopover in Diani. The alternative would have been a flight with Kenya Airways from Nairobi to Mombasa and then an hour and a half drive to Vipingo instead of the hour and forty minute flight with Safarilink.
Domestic flights in Kenya have recovered from Covid-19 restrictions, although there aren’t as many options as before.
On our way through the pandemic, air travel depends on on-board air quality and comfort.