February 19, 2008 / 3:02 PM / 10 years ago

Kenya Airways suspends flights to Paris

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya Airways has suspended its thrice-weekly flights to Paris as travelers from France dried up following violence in the east African country earlier in the year, a statement by the carrier said on Tuesday.

The airline’s operations have been hit since a disputed presidential election in December erupted into violence that killed 1,000 people and plunged Kenya into a political crisis.

“There (has) been a sharp decline on bookings on the route as French citizens reacted to their government’s decision to issue a blanket travel advisory against travel to Kenya,” a statement by the airline said.

Nairobi is a regional hub connecting to African destinations such as Rwanda, Burundi, Comoros, Seychelles and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Passengers connecting to French-speaking countries could be inconvenienced by the flight suspension, but Chief Executive Titus Naikuni said he was optimistic flights would resume soon.

“We will monitor the situation on a monthly basis and are hopeful that we will resume Paris flights for the summer high season once the French Government’s travel advisory has been removed,” Naikuni said in the statement.

The fighting in Kenya has subsided after the start of mediation talks to break the stalemate between re-elected President Mwai Kibaki and his opposition rival Raila Odinga.

However, some western countries, which provide the bulk of tourists visiting Kenya’s wildlife parks and beaches, have kept travel bans to Kenya, which means insurance companies do not provide cover for travel to the country.

Tourism, the biggest foreign exchange earner for Kenya, has been worst hit by the crisis with operators saying the sector could dry up from lack of visitors.

Last month, Kenya Airways said business had fallen by 15 percent, hurt mainly by a drop in passenger traffic from Europe.

Naikuni said he had reduced flight frequencies or changed the size of aircraft covering the worst-affected routes to London, Amsterdam and Johannesburg.

The airline, partially owned by Air France-KLM, posted an 18.8 percent drop in pretax profits in the first half of 2007, to 2.8 billion shillings ($40.29 million).

Reporting by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura

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