NAIROBI,KENYA,OCTOBER 9 —Kenya Airways is putting final touches on the scheduled inaugural flight from Nairobi to New York; a route it hopes will boost its operations and help the airline’s efforts to bounce back to profitability.
This is at the back of the ongoing implementation of a turnaround strategy at the airline which is yet to come out of the woods after a series of losses in the past four years.
KQ, as it is known by its international code, is keen to cement its operations on the new route which makes it the first airline to fly directly to New York from the East African Coast.
The airline has sealed a number of deals to support its operations, which include maintenance of its fleet and a marketing strategy to ensure optimum perfomance.
It has signed an agreement with US-based aircraft manufacturer-Boeing that allows it to access the firm’s global network of parts and services.
The deal that makes KQ the first African airline to have such preferences is meant to ensure optimum performance by the airline’s aircraft.
It stands beneficial to its fleet of Boeing aircrafts as the airline counts on its Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners to serve the 15-hour trans-Atlantic flights.
“We have the technology to do it. We are operating our Dreamliner 787-8 which have the right range performance engines that give us the possibility of taking off from a high elevation airport in Nairobi and do non-stop to New York,” Chief Executive Sebastian Mikosz’s said.
The inaugural (non-stop) flight is scheduled to leave the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) for John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) on October 28, with a return flight scheduled for October 29.
The management has ensured its 234-seat capacity Boeing is in perfect condition for the 7,400 miles (11,909 kilometres) journey.
“The Dreamliners will serve well on the route,” Mikosz affirmed.
Last month, a team from KQ led by Mikosz and Chairman Michael Joseph was in New York to ensure everything was in place, before its first commercial non-stop flight from Nairobi touches down at JFK.
KQ scored big during the visit where it received the backing of President Uhuru Kenyatta who was in the US for the 73rd United Nations General Assembly.
Kenyatta who graced a dinner co-hosted with Boeing urged the US market to fly KQ, as he fronted Kenya as a top business hub and Africa’s leading Safari and holiday destination.
“There is no greater Safari, holiday and business destination you will find in the African continent as you will find in Nairobi and many other destinations that Kenya has,” President Kenyatta asserted.
The direct flights are expected to open up new opportunities between the two countries which already have existing strong bilateral ties, as the US remains a key market source for international tourists to Kenya.
According to official government data, more than 100,000 tourists visit Kenya from the US annually.
Direct flights to JFK, the busiest airport in Nothern America, is expected to further boost the numbers.
Kenya’s business community is also counting on the flights to increase activities between the two countries, further strengthening trade ties, as the country remains a big beneficiary of the US’s African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
Kenya is one of the leading apparel exporters to the US in sub-Saharan Africa.
Kenya Airways chairman Michael Joseph has since termed the Nairobi-New York route as “a new beginning” for the airline which has been facing financial turbulence.
“We have been through quite a traumatic time over the last four years,” Joseph said.
KQ’s worst year was 2016 when it reported a Ksh26.2 billion loss. This was a further slump from a Ksh25.7 billion loss reported in 2015.
The airlines’ turn-around strategy has however managed to reduce its losses to Ksh4 billion, its financial performance for the year ended June 2018 shows. This is from Ksh5.6 billion loss reported in 2017.
“We embarked on a special journey two years ago and we see we are going in the right direction. This flight to New York is part of that,” Joseph said.