Kenya files formal complaint after suspending KLM flights over ‘civil unrest’ lawsuit

Kenya is set to officially file an official complaint with the Netherlands after Dutch airline KLM announced it was canceling flights citing fears of “civil unrest” in Kenya and Tanzania.

Although the reference to Kenya was later removed from the airline’s website, Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen said Kenya, which had since approached KLM’s country representative, would still request an audience with the Netherlands because what he said “unfounded, false, insensitive” and misleading information.”

“I have officially lodged my protest with the airline against this baseless, false, insensitive and misleading information which paints Kenya in a bad light. While this post has been removed from KLM’s social media pages, we will escalate the discussion through diplomatic channels to ensure the same thing does not happen again,” Murkomen said in a statement.

On Friday evening, on its social media pages and official website, KLM listed Kenya and Tanzania as countries experiencing civil unrest and that the airline will suspend flights to the two countries on Monday.

“Due to civil unrest in Tanzania and Kenya from Friday 27th January up to and including Monday 30th January 2023, some of our flights to, from or via Dar es Salaam (DAR), Kilimanjaro (JRO), Zanzibar (ZNZ), and Nairobi (NRB) may be disrupted. We’re doing our best to help you get back on your way,” read the statement released by KLM on Friday night.

The post was later edited, removing any references to Kenya or Nairobi, but keeping the part about Tanzania, which also has not reported any instances of civil unrest or fears of such occurrences.

“Due to civil unrest in Tanzania from Friday 27th January up to and including Monday 30th January 2023, some of our flights to, from or via Dar es Salaam (DAR), Kilimanjaro (JRO) and Zanzibar (ZNZ) may be disrupted . We are doing our best to help you on your way again,” read the airline’s recent statement following protests in Kenya.

In his statement, Mr Murkomen rebuked the airline, saying: “We are shocked that KLM is making such fabricated, malicious and false allegations without checking the facts and considering the likely impact on our country’s image and economy.”

But questions remain for tourism stakeholders as to what prompted the airline to issue such a warning and what it would mean for their businesses.

“An airline has nothing to do with not even rushing ahead of their governments who have not issued such alarming warnings. Tanzania should also not be listed under civil unrest. KLM’s latest civil unrest update concerned Peru and the Lima riots,” said Mohammed Hersi, director of Pollman’s Tours and Safaris.

Mr Hersi said the return of opposition leader Tundu Lisu, welcomed by President Samia Suluhu, was an indication Tanzania was safe.

“KLM apologizes to Kenya and Tanzania and explains what it has to do with civil unrest,” Mr Hersi said.

Mr John Kariuki, a Mombasa-based tour operator, said he was upset that KLM was claiming something that was not true.

“Waking up to such news that is unfounded is not only alarming but also spoils the image of the two peaceful countries,” Mr Kariuki said.

According to KLM travel warnings as of Friday 27 January 2023 20:44 (Amsterdam local time) on its website, the airline has updated its latest warnings and rebooking guidelines for its three routes in Tanzania from and via Dar es Salaam (DAR), Kilimanjaro , updated (JRO) and Zanzibar (ZNZ).

“If you have booked a flight to, from or via the three destinations listed between Friday 27th January and Monday 30th January 2023 inclusive, you can see below what rebooking and refund options we can offer you. These options are only valid if you have a ticket originally issued on or before Friday January 27, 2023,” reads part of the announcement to its customers.

Passengers traveling to these destinations have the option to rebook to a different travel date.

“Does your original flight depart from Friday 27 January through Monday 30 January 2023 to or via any of the destinations listed above? Then your new departure date should be before or on Monday 6th February 2023. You can rebook your flight no later than Wednesday, February 1, 2023,” the statement said.

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