|Kenya Airways launched services from Nairobi to Antananarivo, Madagascar in November. Flights are operated three times weekly using a 737.|
Kenya’s tourism may have been hurt in 2008 by the violence associated with political unrest but politics may also, ironically, help boost tourism this year. As is well known US President-elect Barack Obama’s father was born in Kenya and already there is growing interest from Americans to follow in Obama’s footsteps and visit his ancestral home.
The country’s flag carrier Kenya Airways does not fly to the US but it does currently serve 32 destinations non-stop from its hub at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) including Madagascar which was added to the network last November. It also serves a further 10 destinations via intermediate points. In 2006 Nairobi handled an estimated 4.4 million passengers.
Kenya Airways, in which KLM has a 26% stake and the Kenyan government 23%, has seen traffic numbers surge by 60% between 2003 and 2007. In its annual report for 2007/08 the airline reported that traffic overall was up 6% but that there were significant regional differences.
Passenger numbers to both Europe and the Middle East (Dubai and Mumbai) were down 8%, while Far East routes grew by 7%. Traffic grew 24% to West and Central Africa, by 26% to East Africa, 13% to Southern Africa and 10% to North Africa. However, domestic traffic was down 3%.
The airline, which became an associate member of the SkyTeam alliance in September 2007, has also been profitable in recent years. It currently has around a 54% share of scheduled capacity at Nairobi airport where its nearest rivals are Precision Air (which operates three routes to Tanzania) and Fly540.com (a local ‘low-cost’ airline that began operations in November 2006).
Its fleet currently consists of four 777s, six 767s, 11 737s of various types and three Embraer E170s. The Embraer jets have replaced a couple of Saab 2000 turboprops. In 2006 the airline ordered six 787s for delivery between 2010 and 2011 but their introduction is now likely to be delayed by between two and three years.
Mombasa route dominates network
Mombasa is by far the airline’s biggest route in terms of frequency. Kenya Airways recently increased frequency on the route from eight daily flights to 10. Mombasa is also the centre of the coastal tourism industry.
|14||Dar Es-Salaam, Johannesburg, Kigala, Kisumu|
|7||Accra, Amsterdam, Bujumbura, Bangkok, Mumbai, Kinshasa, Khartoum, Lagos, Zanzibar|
|Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 5 January 2009|
Fly540 operates five daily flights on the Mombasa route and also flies twice-daily to Entebbe. The only European destinations served are Amsterdam, London Heathrow and Paris. The London route is particularly competitive as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic also operate daily flights. In 2007 almost half a million passengers travelled between Heathrow and Nairobi, an increase of 11.4% on 2006. However, in the first half of 2008 traffic was down 18% and was still down 10% in the third quarter of 2008.
Last October saw the start of thrice-weekly non-stop flights to Guangzhou. Previously this market had been served by Kenya Airways via Dubai. Other far eastern destinations served are Bangkok and Hong Kong (via Bangkok) and there are also daily flights to Mumbai.
Four new African destinations coming this summer
At the start of the summer season Kenya Airways will be adding several new destinations to its network. These include Blantyre (Malawi), Brazzaville (Congo), Libreville (Gabon) and Malabo (Equatorial Guinea). There will also be frequency increases on several routes including a fourth weekly frequency to Paris.