German airline Lufthansa is set to deploy larger aircraft and increase its frequencies on the Nairobi-Frankfurt route on what it gave reference to ‘huge potential’.
The airline says it will deploy the wide-bodied Airbus A340-300 between Frankfurt and Nairobi four times a week beginning September this year, up from the current three weekly flights.
According to International Air Transport Association (IATA), demand is holding up in Africa despite the underperformance of Nigeria and South Africa. East Africa is delivering above average economic growth when the rest of the world is struggling to grow.
Lufthansa, one of Europe’s biggest airlines, resumed direct passenger flights to Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport from late October 2015 after an 18-year absence from the Kenyan capital.
Lufthansa general manager for Kenya and Ethiopia Tobias Ernst said demand has been rising in the nearly nine month period since resumption, prompting the expansion plans.
“There is huge demand including from corporate and leisure travellers, family visitors, entrepreneurial Kenyans, missionaries, humanitarian sector personnel, diplomats, and NGOs along the route hence the need to upscale,” said Mr Ernst in Nairobi.
Mr Ernst said the weekly flights would further increase to five times around December this year to cater for increased traffic during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
It is expected the larger aircraft will help the airline to make a better sales pitch to passengers keen on comfort for the eight hour plus long haul flights from Nairobi to Frankfurt. Most of the carrier’s rivals are already flying the larger aircraft on the long haul route.
The airline previously relied on code-shared flights with partners Swiss and Brussels Airlines to connect its passengers to Nairobi.
The four weekly flights will initially be scheduled on Tuesday, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. It will offer a total capacity of 298, from the current 89.
Following the October last year re-launch, Lufthansa offered three weekly flights on the narrow-bodied Boeing 737-700 operated by Swiss based Private Air. The route expansion is also a boost to Kenya’s bid for more tourist numbers from Germany.
“Tourism to Kenya especially from German and US markets continues to increase and we are delighted to once again offer an additional frequency on the route,” said Mr Ernst.