Nairobi Airport Fire: What We Learned

Nairobi is the capital of Kenya and the continent’s main gateway to Europe and Asia. As East Africa’s primary hub, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport sees around six million passengers flow through its doors each year. Connecting flights ferry passengers to all the major attractions: from Mount Kilimanjaro to the Masai Mara and Lamu Island. In peak periods this busy airport greets around 16 000 travellers each day.

The airport fire on 7 August 2013 took four hours to bring under control. Most of the damage was to the international arrivals terminal, which caused a flurry of flights to be diverted. Thanks to the efficiency of the Kenyan airport authority, international flights were landing again within a day. There were no casualties or evidence of arson or terrorist attack – an invesigation found that the likely cause as an electrical fault.

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When news of the fire broke, our team assembled at Go2Africa’s head office in Cape Town, South Africa, to assess the impact of flight delays on our travellers in the region. We had two goals: proactive communication with our affected clients, and reducing the impact on their safaris as much as possible. Each of our Africa Safari Experts got in touch with their clients by whichever means was most direct – email, telephone, or via lodge managers and private drivers.

The fire was a dramatic test of our promise to deliver the best service to our travellers under all circumstances, including the pressure of unforeseen events. There is nothing like a cold bucket of anxiety to ruin a holiday, so we put on our raincoats and stood between our clients and the flood of news flashes and sensational reports about the fire. We didn’t wait for them to call our 24/7 emergency line, we got in touch with them with the facts. 

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We worked with our network of suppliers to find smart solutions where interruptions to itineraries were unavoidable. We’re proud to say that not one single client of ours was unduly distressed or needlessly inconvenienced in the wake of the Nairobi airport fire. 

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Two weeks after the fire, we surveyed our affected travellers to find out if we had kept our promise. They said yes. We kept our promise because we could respond quickly and efficiently to a crisis here in Africa from our African base. We kept our promise because our handpicked lodges and ground handlers share our commitment to service above and beyond the call of duty. Most of all, we kept our promise because our Africa safari experts care enough about their clients to work day and night to ‘make it right’.

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We know that being on safari is a bucket list experience for many people – and lifelong memories of Africa should be awe-inspiring, even if unexpected challenges happen. The combination of quick, personal communication and round-the-clock support turned the airport fire crisis into another layer of adventure for our clients, not a disaster, and that is the best outcome in a tough situation.

 For the full traveller feedback on the Nairobi fire, read:


Was your safari affected by the Nairobi airport fire? Share your story with us in the comments below. 

Written by Donyale MacKrill. Connect with her on Google+

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