Reports that announced on Tuesday, January 18, 2022, that President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the whole of Wilson Airport to be closed were addressed by the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA).
The reports had revealed that the President ordered all planes to be grounded, leading to a temporary closure of one of the busiest airports in the country.
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The directive was issued just before visiting Hungarian President János Áder was set to take off from the city through commercial means. Sources had revealed that the President changed his mind about Áder flying commercially and ordered the Kenya Air Force to fly him to his destination.
“We were asked to alight from our planes as all flights were grounded. Most of us have been here since 10 am. Our plane was scheduled for the afternoon but we are now stuck and delayed. We are not yet sure on when operations will resume,” one of the passengers revealed to a local daily.
However, the KAA through Twitter spoke on the reports later that day, saying that the airport is fully functional.
“We would like to correct misleading reports indicating that Wilson Airport has been closed. The airport is fully operational,” it addressed.
Flights at Wilson Airport were previously disrupted for six days to allow for the Kenya Airforce to carry out training drills ahead of the Jamhuri Day celebrations on Sunday, December 12, 2021.
A lot goes on behind the scenes as the Kenya Air Force prepares for its fly-past shows during national holiday celebrations held in various venues across the country. Such shows feature the showcasing of the defence forces’ array of aircraft to Kenyans in attendance at the stadium and watching from home, led by the watchful eyes of the President.
However, what wows the audience is the exciting moves done especially by the fighter jets as they boom through the skies with speed rivalling that of sound.
To prepare for such thrilling showstoppers, the Kenya Air Force picks select airports other than the Moi Air Base in Eastleigh, Nairobi for their pilots to practice their manoeuvres. Wilson Airport for example was closed for one hour in 2016 from 11.20 am to allow the pilots to practise their drills.
The closure also affected the country’s busiest airport, the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), back in 2017 which led to a disruption in commercial flights. Both airports were closed back in 2019, which shut down the Kenyan airspace for several hours.
As for JKIA, KAA sent an advisory to passengers warning them of longer processing times and passenger queues during peak hours of 8 pm to 11 pm at the airport’s departure Terminal 1A.
The situation arose partly due to intensified health screening procedures instituted to combat the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with significant traffic growth normally witnessed at this time of the year.
The unavailability of JKIA’s Terminals 1B and 1C which are at advanced stages of refurbishment compounded the situation.
“We kindly request passengers to arrive at the airport at least 3 hours before their scheduled departure times and to take into consideration the extended travel times to the airport due to the ongoing construction of the JKIA- Nairobi Express Way. We further advise passengers to ensure strict compliance with all travel requirements of their destination countries prior to arrival at the airport,” warned KAA in part.