Virgin Atlantic stops Kenya flights

by William ASTON on May 16, 2012

Virgin Atlantic has announced that it will withdraw flights to and from Kenya in the face of rising costs and a dip in visitor numbers.

Increasing fuel costs paired with rising APD – or Air Passenger Duty – were the main factors in Virgin Atlantic’s decision to discontinue all flights between the Kenyan capital Nairobi and London from September 24 onwards.  The carrier’s chief commercial officer, Julie Southern, commented that, in spite of the efforts of Virgin Atlantic employees, external factors such as the rising costs of fuel and aviation taxes in Britain have been matched by insufficient passenger numbers over the past five years in contributing to the decision.

Recent civil unrest and an ongoing threat of piracy from areas close to Somalia led to many tour operators that offer trips to Kenya reporting a slump in business this year. Although Sir Richard Branson has always had strong links to Africa, much due to him owning a retreat in the heart of Kruger National Park in South Africa, the mogul had threatened to pull his airline out of Kenya, a former British colony, after civil unrest in 2008 that was caused by the controversial outcome of a disputed election.

Then, Sir Richard warned the heads of Kenya’s tourism board that he would not hesitate in cutting Virgin Atlantic’s connection to the country. The last flight from London Heathrow to Nairobi will  leave the UK on September 23 while the last flight from Nairobi to London Heathrow will depart a day after.

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