Ban on liquids hurting Duty Free shops

July 21, 2008

, NAIROBI, July 21 – It started as an attempt to stop a major terrorist operation in London, but the ban on carrying liquids aboard aircraft is beginning to sound a death knell for the duty-free business at major airports across Africa, Kenya included.

Exactly two years after the British Police claimed it had foiled an attempt to bomb aircraft flying between Britain and the United States using liquid explosives, the African airlines are facing the worst form of discrimination in flying passengers into Europe.

Apart from being unable to ferry passengers carrying more than one litre of any form of liquid into Europe, airlines operating from Africa have also been faced with an array of restrictive business rules, aimed at painting them as environmentally unfriendly.

George Muhoho, the Managing Director of the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA), says airport chiefs are gearing for talks with the European aviation officials on the possibilities of lifting the ban on liquids, which has affected the duty-free business at airports.

"This is very important for us as Africans," said Muhoho, who is also the President of the Airports Council International-Africa Chapter. The organisation, headquartered in Casablanca, Morocco, advocates for infrastructure improvements at major airports.

Muhoho says while American and European carriers have removed restrictions on the amount of liquor that passengers flying into Europe and America are allowed to carry on board an aircraft, the ban on passengers flying from Africa still remained.

To ease the restrictions that African airlines, the local airport operators and the airspace regulators are facing, a tripartite agreement was signed last week, among three international organisations to push for the lifting of the specific restrictions.

Muhoho\’s Airports Council, the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), headed by Christian Folly-Kossi and the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), headed by Chris Kuto, agreed on a common strategy to negotiate with the EU on lifting the ban.

Muhoho says the European Union and the US have both agreed on common standards on the liquids that the passengers can carry on board an aircraft. But this does not apply to Africans, which means Europeans flying from Africa.

He hopes that with the formation of a joint council of the three top aviation bodies in Africa, efforts to salvage the potential losses incurred by the duty-free shops might be successful. The ban has particularly affected the sale of liquor at the airports.

The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) typically hosts an average of 6 million passengers annually, mostly connecting flights to various destinations across the world.

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