The US government has issued a fresh advisory, warning its airlines of the risk of being attacked within Kenyan airspace in yet another blow to local tourism.
The US, backed by an express Nairobi-New York air link, is Kenya’s top source of foreign tourists recording 245,437 arrivals last year.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in an updated alert issued on Wednesday, warned civilian airliners and all operators of US-registered aircraft to “exercise caution” when flying over Kenyan airspace, citing possible attacks by extremists.
“Those persons are advised to exercise caution when flying into, out of, within, or over the territory and airspace of Kenya East of 40 degrees East longitude at altitudes below fl260 due to the possibility of extremist/militant activity,” the agency said.
It asked American operators to report any security related incidents they may encounter within the airspace. FAA also asked the affected operators to inform it of their travel plans at least 72 hours ahead of planned flights to Kenya.
FAA said it will review the advisory by February 26, 2021. It issued a similar warning in February 2019.
The US considers Kenya as a strategic ally in the region. The latest alert by its agency could rock recent growth in the Kenyan travel and aviation sector after years of recovery.
“Aircraft may encounter fire from small arms; indirect fire weapons, such as mortars and rockets; and anti-aircraft capable weapons, including man-portable air defense systems (manpads),” said the FAA on February 26 seen by Business Daily.
“Such weapons could target aircraft at low altitudes, including during the arrival and departure phases of flight, and/or target airports and aircraft on the ground, especially at airfields located east of 40 degrees east longitude.”
Kenya has in recent years suffered attacks by al-Shabaab, who are demanding the withdrawal of its troops from Somalia. Al-Shabaab has been attacking the Somali government and military targets, but occasionally launches high-profile assaults in neighbouring States, including Kenya.
The US and Kenya recently struck a new deal for direct cargo flights between the two nations.
The amendment deal, which adds all-cargo rights to the existing air transport agreement, is expected to offer air carriers greater flexibility to meet customers’ cargo and express delivery needs more efficiently.