Kenya Airways to work its fleet harder in profitability drive

Kenya Airways plans to put its aircraft in the air for longer hours by increasing the frequency of flights across its network as it strives to restore profitability.

Staff at Nairobi's JKIA pose for photos with Kenya Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Staff at Nairobi’s JKIA pose for photos with a Kenya Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The latest move could improve passenger connectivity by making more flights available throughout the day. Furthermore, the additional capacity is meant to counter expansionist moves by regional competitors such as Ethiopian Airlines, RwandAir, Fastjet and South African Airways.

Last November, Kenya Airways reported a pretax loss of Shs12.5 billion ($140 million) for the period through September 2014. The airline attributed the losses to travel advisories issued against Kenya by western governments. The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa affected the airline’s routes to that region.

Last Wednesday, Kenya Airways CEO Mbuvi Ngunze told Citizen Television that the airline is taking loans just to pay its staff.

Kenya Airways has plenty of new aircraft delivered in recent years. These include Boeing 777-300ER, Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Boeing 737-800NG and Embraer E-190. The increase in frequencies is expected to make better use of these new aircraft and hopefully increase cash flow.

On the domestic front, Kenya Airways is doubling the frequency of flights to Malindi from once a day to twice daily. Flights to Mombasa increase from 56 to 63 per week.

As Kenya Airways deploys brand new aircraft within Kenya, the competition is hardly investing in new equipment. As a matter of fact, the world’s oldest passenger jet is operated by one of Kenya Airways’ domestic rivals. There is growing concern that the latest move by Kenya Airways could flood the domestic market with seats and push out smaller carriers.

Things get more interesting (or baffling) considering that the Kenya Airways low cost subsidiary, Jambojet, launched new flights to Malindi, Ukunda and Lamu on 28th March. This puts the Kenya Airways Group into direct competition with niche players such as Air Kenya and Safarilink.

Outside Kenya’s borders, Kenya Airways is doubling the number of flights to the Tanzanian airports of Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar to twice daily.

Across southern Africa, Kenya Airways is introducing daily night flights to Lusaka, Zambia and Lilongwe in addition to the existing day flights. Flights to Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, go up from the current 14 flights to 21 per week.

The city of Kinshasa, capital of the DRC, will be served by Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Flights to Cameroun increase from 5 times a week to daily frequencies.

In West Africa, Kenya Airways will utilize 5th freedom rights to fly between Accra and Monrovia as it awaits clearance from the Kenya government to resume direct flights between Nairobi and Monrovia. The Monrovia flights were suspended last year due to Ebola.

According to a Kenya Airways statement, the new flight schedules are a response to runway works that will see the JKIA runway closed between midnight and 6 am daily for the next one year.

“The rationale behind this hub redesign program is to augment operations while accommodating the runway upgrade,” said Kenya Airways CEO Mbuvi Ngunze. The new schedule is expected to boost passenger connectivity by 20%.

On 30th March, Kenya Airways will launch flights to Hanoi, Vietnam. The new destination will be a stopover on the existing Nairobi – Guangzhou service. Still on the Asian network, Kenya Airways is to double its flights to the Indian city of Mumbai from once a day to twice daily. Flights to Dubai go up from once a day to 11 a week.

Flights to Paris, France, have been increased from 5 times a week to daily.

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