Kenya Airways set to enter maindeck market

Kenya Airways has signaled its intent to enter the maindeck market by announcing that it was further developing its cargo division through the purchase of its first freighter aircraft which it will use to tap burgeoning intra-African cargo flows.

Speaking at the Air Cargo Africa Conference in Nairobi, Group MD and CEO Titus Naikuni said that the airline was sourcing for a freighter to be in service by next financial year which starts in April. The airline has identified the B737 freighter as the ideal aircraft for its needs and is hoping to take delivery by the third quarter this year. He did say, however that the airline had noted rising demand for cargo services from customers and was keen to support the growth in intra-Africa cargo volumes. “The freighter will be used for operations across Africa destinations,” he said. In its recently released figures for the third quarter 2010 ended 31 December 2010, Kenya Airways Cargo tonnage was 15,195 tonnes, almost identical to the prior year’s level of 15,246 tonnes due to what it said were “capacity constraints as a result of narrow body operations on most intra-African routes and competition with passenger and passenger baggage on core feed/de-feed routes.” Naikuni added that the freighter service will be complemented by capacity offered by wide-body aircraft already serving Lusaka, Lilongwe, Harare and Kinshasa routes. Expansion of Kenya’s passenger services to Europe will also increase the cargo uplift Naikuni noted, with the recent launch of a three times weekly B767-300 service to Rome followed by an upgrading of its Amsterdam service from B767-300 to B777-200 equipment in April. “We aim to increase our services to London to double-daily served by Boeing 777-200 as soon as slot availability permits at London Heathrow Airport,” he added. Naikuni added that International aviation analysts have predicted that air cargo to grow exponentially especially intra Africa and between Africa and Asia with Nairobi increasingly playing the role of a cargo hub for Africa. He also called for the expansion of cargo handling infrastructure particularly at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), as well Kisumu and Moi international airports in Kenya. “As Kenya Airways we have invested in cold room facilities to accommodate the growing horticultural export business. Our new Fast Flexible Fresh (FFF) facility is a 2,500 meter square warehouse with the capacity to store between 90-100 pallets,” he added. While Africa in general remains a net importer with imports outstripping exports, JKIA is an exception in Africa in that its airfreight exports are greater than imports. According to Kenya Airports Authority Airfreight, in 2010 cargo exports totaled 196,000 tonnes, accounting for 86 per cent of all cargo throughput, with imports at 32,800 tonnes accounting for the remaining 14 per cent. Perishables accounted for 85 per cent of total exports and flowers, in particular accounting for 41 per cent of the total perishables, followed by fresh fruit and vegetables. Europe remains the destination of choice for Kenyan exports with 68 per cent of total exports, while the Middle East is second at 14 per cent.