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International flights back at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport

International flights have slowly begun resuming at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), a day after a fierce fire devastated the international arrivals terminal. However, airlines are struggling to clear a backlog in passengers and cargo.

A screenshot from shows a Kenya Airways flight leaving for London Heathrow.

A screenshot from shows a Kenya Airways flight leaving for London Heathrow.

Yesterday morning’s fire resulted in the total closure of the airport. Later yesterday, a government statement indicated that JKIA’s domestic terminal would be converted for use as an international terminal. Domestic travelers would be redirected to the airport’s cargo terminal. It appears those plans have been operationalized.

A few domestic flights began operating late yesterday evening. By this morning, Kenyan-based airlines operating from JKIA had began some international flights.

Kenya Airways had several flights leaving JKIA for various destinations outside Kenya. Kenya Airway’s Tanzanian partner, Precision Air, also had flights from Nairobi this morning.

Nairobi-based cargo carrier Astral Aviation resumed operations with a scheduled flight to Juba, South Sudan, this morning. “Our immediate objective is to restore normal operations by clearing the backlog of cargo especially for Juba, Mwanza, Pemba, Dar-es-salaam, Entebbe, Kigali and Moroni which will be completed by the 11th August 2013,” said Sanjeev Gadhia, the airline’s CEO.

Fly540 Kenya is resuming services to Juba and Zanzibar in addition to its domestic destinations. “Talk of prolonged disruptions and diversions to other airports were premature, and we are pleased that we are able to commence a fuller service today,” said Don Smith, CEO of Fly540 Kenya.

The Kenyan government has announced that full international services will be restored by tonight. Meanwhile, President Uhuru Kenyatta has directed that the State Pavilion be opened to passengers to ease the congestion.

There is still a backlog of thousands of passengers who would have travelled had it not been for the fire. Clearly, it will be quite some time before the backlog is cleared.

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