Coastweek -- I
will continue this week on the subject of what travellers get to
feel and see and how they interact with the information they are
writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.
Last week I touched
on the first phase which is when one leaves the house or place
of work to head to an airport.
then would apply to the start of any journey whether by air, sea
This week we will
look at airport in Kenya and some selected countries abroad and
consider their promise and whether they deliver on the promise.
Starting with our
airports in Kenya, these are the first and last point of
contacts with many travellers who arrive on our fair shores.
They are also a main
contact for nationals who are travelling outside or returning by
The vision for the
Kenya Airports Authority is to provide efficient and effective
airport facilities and services in a sustainable environment.
That of my favourite
airport – Schiphol in the Netherlands – is to develop the
airport into Europe’s preferred airport for passengers, airlines
and logistics service providers alike.
There isn’t that
much difference in the vision statements. However, the reality
on the ground is very different.
When one arrives at
the entrance to our airports one is faced with the first
experience of security.
There are cops whose
duty is to inspect a vehicle and its contents to prevent
dangerous weapons from being ferried into the airport.
They will pull one
aside and do a perfunctory check on the vehicle and its content
and then let one go forward. In Nairobi a whole new
infrastructure was put into place that would allow the use of
technology to improve the detail and efficiency of the scanning
After being in use
for a year, the technology has been shut down and we are back to
The checks being
carried out in Kenya’s airports make a mockery of the intention.
One needs to travel
to neighbouring Uganda and get a feel of being properly searched
before arrival at the airport parking or drop off point.
The people manning
the facility look and feel serious and wat they do will give one
the comfort that they have been able to do a much better search
than we see in our environment.
The checks we have
here look good but does not achieve the level of comfort
It has become a
necessary evil to be checked and because of the lack of
enrolment of the people being checked, it has become a tick the
box activity and we look good for the international traveller as
well as reciprocating airports for airlines licensed to fly to
experience for parking is OKish. Minimal intervention – except
in Kisumu and Mombasa where the ticketing for parking is still a
The only thing
lacking is information about how one can find parking and
amenities once one gets into eth airport area.
It is necessary to
not only indicate which flights leave from which terminal but
also where the parking is, how many free spaces are left and
also where the key facilities are such as toilets, the taxi rank
and information on a load of items such as shops available and
There needs to be a
lot more information available to the user about the facilities
that have been provided.
We have in the past
compared the look and feel of our terminals and the rating is
that out of five Kenya Airports Authority
I have been
globetrotting for a few weeks covering countries in Africa,
Europe and the Americas.
For me the time
spent in the air and in airports is a time to catch up on a lot
of outstanding e-mails, time to read as well as a time for
There is also the
time in between activities that one can spend usefully either
through leisure or education about the country or city one is
Travellers each take
certain things for granted and also ignore what is not on their
radar at a given time.
I normally try and
find out the promise that each establishment I enter offers.
Let me take you on a
journey of the typical things that one will find out with this
The first is when I
board the taxi or transport heading for the airport from my
abode, workplace or hotel.
I am an avid and
almost subconscious user of seat belts so the first thing I do
when I get into a vehicle is to reach for the seat belt and
If it doesn’t work
where I am sitting I will change seats till I find one that
works. If there is none that works, then I will call the taxi
company and tell them to send a replacement cab.
If it is an Uber or
a hailed ride, I will cancel the journey and hail another one. I
will also report back to the app owner about why I cancelled the
This may take time
but one can always find a way of getting the message across by
navigating relentlessly through the standard menu that one gets
which has a set of suggested answers or queries.
I do this not
because of being snobbish but recognising that the use or lack
of use of a seat belt can have very different and lifelong
If one is involved
in an accident and survives then the seat belt will have
achieved its intended purpose.
If one does not and
becomes a fatality or serious injury statistic then the non-use
will send a message.
We must get present
to this fact whenever we use any form of transport especially
cars, boda bodas and so forth.
requirements are not gimmicks. They are potentially lifesaving.
When one gets to an
airport and there are many signs missing and various public
facilities are not worth writing home about it creates another
All our airports disappoint in one way or another.
My biggest beef is the toilets.
They have improved in cleanliness but fail in one main way.
One cannot enter them with a luggage trolley.
It doesn’t matter
which airport one goes to in Kenya, the entrances are very small
and also the space to manoeuvre in the actual toilet space is
also very limited.
Travelling alone and
wanting to use the toilet facilities are not a good combination
One would have to
leave their luggage trolley outside the door and at the mercy of
other travellers – not a good choice.
Spaces for the
public once one gets to the airside of things is wanting as
There are more duty
free shops than one needs and most sell the same things at
almost the same price so one wonders why there is that variety
in the first place.
We should reduce the
number of shops, offer better quality at a lower price and in
doing so increase the space available to offer quality public
seating and facilities.
There has been an
attempt to do so in Mombasa as well as Kisumu.
Nairobi does not
impress given the passenger load it has.
Even the relatively
new facilities that are dedicated to the national airline and
its partners disappoints in many ways.
The toilets appear
to be an afterthought and are small and not adequately
The public seating
spaces are limited although the duty free shops are better than
All in all, the
experience at the airports in Kenya leave one wondering whether
the passenger is at the centre of what they do or whether the
passenger is just one of those little inconveniences that come
in the way of giving satisfactory service to some unknown
superior being that trolls the airports.
We know that VIP
travel is increasing especially with the increased number of
However, service to
them should be limited and service to the average traveller is
really what needs attention.
It is after all the
private traveller that when treated well will sell the country.
As Kachumbari says,
actions will speak louder than words
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