The long-awaited and often-postponed Delta Airlines flights from the United States to Nairobi have once again been canceled by Delta, following earlier postponements, which according to sources in Nairobi were then purely of commercial grounds.
The airline had in past weeks stubbornly refused to even admit to the possibility of this happening again and engaged in extensive pre -launch publicity activities, in spite of the many doubts raised by the travel trade, informed aviation observers and others, as reported by this correspondent repeatedly.
The cancellation of what would have been Kenya’s first direct US connection for decades (the old Pan Am used to operate flights via West Africa to New York before switching the transit point to Frankfurt) will be a blow for the intensified promotion of tourism and trade ties between Kenya and the whole of Eastern Africa and the United States, as much hope had been vested in the start of direct flights between Nairobi and Atlanta.
Sources in Nairobi waited until the very last moment to make the announcement, blaming obscure “advice‚” from the US Department of Homeland Security, but a swift survey of opinions in the travel trade in Nairobi rubbished this excuse and blamed Delta’s commercial considerations at the present time as the suspected major reason for the flight cancellation, considering the challenging US domestic aviation situation and the global economic and financial crisis.
Hence, two of those asked went as far as accusing the airline of putting up a smoke screen and hiding behind DHS advice, which they said lacked substance and ignored the fact that many other global airlines fly daily into Nairobi and do not fear such obscure “security concerns.”
Other sources however blamed the current US administration of using this situation as a pressure tool to extract political concessions from the Kenyan government, which has been under scrutiny over governance and how to deal with the post election violence fall out. The US embassy was not to be drawn into the emerging debate and only issued a statement that “last minute” issues‚ were still to be resolved.
The airline has, meanwhile, rushed to assure travelers already booked on their planned flights that they would be rebooked to other flights or receive a full refund.