Astral Aviation gets nod for direct cargo flights to Israel


An Astral cargo plane at JKIA. PHOTO | NMG

Astral Aviation has acquired a second freighter from the US ahead of the peak season for horticulture exports even as it has been granted permission to operate direct cargo flights to Israel, making it the second largest cargo operator in Africa after Ethiopian Airlines.

The cargo carrier received the Boeing 757 last month and has been issued permission by the air authorities in both Kenya and Israel to operate cargo on the Nairobi-Tel Aviv route. This is the second high-capacity freighter that the carrier has received in the last two years and will see it expand to more routes, including Riyadh.

Astral Aviation chief executive officer Sanjeev Gadhia, said the new aircraft will play a significant role in the expansion of its routes and help a great deal in the evacuation of horticulture produce.

“With the new aircraft, we shall be operating from our Nairobi hub to Tel Aviv, Riyadh, and Istanbul for perishable exports from Kenya to the new markets that are currently under-served, hence the opportunity to air-lift flowers, vegetables, fruit, and meat to these destinations,” said Mr Gadhia.

“In addition, Astral Aviation will be offering charter flights on its Boeing 747 freighters to Europe,” he added.

Kenya suffers from a shortage of freighters with a weekly capacity of about 2,000 tonnes against the required 4,000 tonnes at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

The Israel market requires at least 40 tonnes of horticulture produce every week and currently, there are no direct flights between Nairobi and Tel Aviv.

Kenya Airways has been planning to resume the Israel route for the last three years to tap into the potential, however, it was delayed by the outbreak of Covid-19 in 20220.

Astral operates a scheduled network from its Nairobi bub to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia which are connected via Liege, Dubai, and Hong Kong.

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