Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) has granted Ethiopian Airlines permission to operate 24 chartered flights during Valentine’s Day estimated to earn the carrier Sh610 million, amid opposition from some cargo operators who have termed the move unfair.
The Ethiopian carrier will operate ad-hoc flights, allowing it to run direct flights between Nairobi-Europe and Asia without having to fly back to its base in Addis Ababa as is the case with scheduled ones.
This comes at a time when Kenya Airways is in the process of commissioning two of its large capacity aircraft-Boeing 787 Dreamliner- that have been converted into cargo planes to tap into the rising demand for freighters, a move expected to increase available capacity at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Kenya Airways has not objected the move, which other players have termed unfair, but the national carrier indicated that it would work with the government in future to come up with modalities that will create clarity to address potential unfair practices by foreign airlines.
“The airline will work with the Ministry of Transport and all the relevant stakeholders to determine the frameworks and policies that will create clarity to address potential unfair practices by foreign airlines,” said KQ in a statement.
A local cargo operator who spoke on condition of anonymity said the move to issue Ethiopian with permits for ad-hoc flights would deny local airlines an opportunity to cash in on high demand for flowers in Europe during Valentine’s Day.
“Ethiopia will make a lot of money out of this deal. This is the cash that we would have made as local operators,” he said.
However, KCAA director-general Gilbert Kibe said the move is meant to benefit local farmers as there will be sufficient capacity, creating competitive prices.
“If anything, this deal is expected to benefit our local growers as much of their produce will be airlifted,” said Mr Kibe.
In March last year, Kenya Airways protested the move by KCAA to issue ad-hoc permit to Ethiopian Airlines, saying it would deny the ailing carrier an opportunity to make money from cargo transport.