Shipping & Logistics

JKIA gets more capacity for cargo as Valentine’s beckons

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Workers at Equator Flowers farm in Eldoret. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Jomo Kenyatta International Airport has received additional capacity for freighters that will operate during Valentine’s Day.
  • The increase in capacity is expected to come as a boost to exporters who are assured of transporting their produce abroad following a decline in freighter capacity at the JKIA since the onset of Covid-19.
  • In the last couple of weeks, airlines have enhanced their freighter capacity with Kenya Airways this week getting an approval to repurpose its high capacity Boeing 787 Dreamliner for cargo use.

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport has received additional capacity for freighters that will operate during Valentine’s Day.

The increase in capacity is expected to come as a boost to exporters who are assured of transporting their produce abroad following a decline in freighter capacity at the JKIA since the onset of Covid-19.

In the last couple of weeks, airlines have enhanced their freighter capacity with Kenya Airways this week getting an approval to repurpose its high capacity Boeing 787 Dreamliner for cargo use.

The added capacity by local airlines is expected to trigger heightened competition between the local players and Ethiopian Airlines, which has received permit to operate ad-hoc flights.

The Ethiopian carrier has been permitted to operate24 ad-hoc flights between Nairobi and Europe without necessarily having to go back to their base in Addis Ababa.

Tigist Terefe, Ethiopia’s country manager said these additional flights are coming in at the request of flower exporters to move their planned extra volume of produce targeting Valentine’s Day.

With the loss of European airline capacity in the Kenya market due to Covid-19 restriction, Mrs Terefe said these flights provide critical capacity for flowers in this period. Without these flights, he said the flowers would not be able to get to the market and it would be a big loss for the Kenyan growers and the country.

Ethiopian Airlines said they have made major adjustments to their schedules in order to make the flights available for exports.

“We recognise the importance of supporting the Kenyan flower industry for the long term benefits of the air cargo industry in Africa, and for the Kenyan export economy specifically,” said Mrs Terefe.

“The need to operate the flights follows the request of local growers and exporters and in view of insufficient capacity to uplift all the local produce for this seasonal operation,” she added.

Ethiopia is deploying the high capacity Boeing 777 for use during the Valentine and Mother’s Day period this year.

Normally Kenya records high demand for flowers during Valentine’s and the lack of sufficient capacity in terms of freighters compels the Kenya Civil Aviation to give ad-hoc permits to freighters to help in boosting the capacity. Kenya Airways did not object to the move, as it did last year. However other players have termed the ad-hoc flights unfair.

KCAA director-general Gilbert Kibe said the move is meant to benefit local farmers as there will be sufficient capacity that will create competitive prices.

“If anything, this deal is expected to benefit our local growers as much of their produce will be airlifted,” said Mr Kibe.

Last year, Kenya Airways protested the move by KCAA to issue ad-hoc permit to Ethiopian Airlines, saying that the move was meant to deny the ailing carrier an opportunity to make money from cargo transport.

The national carrier had converted its passenger aircraft into freighters after a ban on passenger flights around the world as countries sought to curb the spread of Covid-19, but only allowed cargo aircraft to operate.

Last week, a Kenyan based freighter Astral Aviation launched a high capacity Boeing 767 aircraft as it seeks to expand its capacity of the cargo market.

The effect of Covid-19 on air freight was less severe in Kenya with the country experiencing an eight percent decrease in cargo volumes in 2020, according to the Ministry of Transport.