Kenya Airways cargo volume up 29pc on capacity revamp


Kenya Airways Development Engineer Hazel Wachira during a past interview on the repurposing of aircrafts for cargo at the KQ headquarters, Nairobi on February 18, 2021. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

The volume of cargo transported by Kenya Airways (KQ) #ticker:KQ went up by 29 per cent in the year ended December 2021 compared to a similar period in 2020 mainly on the introduction of more cargo capacity by the carrier at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

KQ, as the airline is known by its international code says in its latest annual report that cargo tonnage on both passenger belly and freight aircraft increased 29 percent to close at 63, 726 tonnes as at December 2021, up from 49, 419 tonnes in December 2020.

Last year’s performance translates into an average of 5, 310 tonnes per month compared to an average of 4, 118 tonnes per month in the year ended December 2020.

The carrier converted two of its B787 Dreamliner aircraft to freighters  last year to move cargo across the region.

The freighters helped the airline capitalise on the cargo business on some of the regional routes where it operates the much smaller Embraer jets, which provide reduced belly cargo capacity.

The move was meant to see KQ increase the available capacity at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by over 100 tonnes, coming as a boost to exporters, especially horticulture farmers.

“The use of converted passenger aircrafts (preighters) has been a boost mainly for wide-body operations,” says KQ in its annual report for the year ended December 2021.

Cargo services were not affected when the airline resumed international flights in August 2020 heading to about 30 destinations for the first time since the routes were suspended last March due to the coronavirus.

Cargo accounted for 19 per cent of its Sh70.22 billion sales in the year to December 2021. In the year ended December 2020, cargo accounted for Sh9.01 billion of the airline’s Sh52.80 billion sales.

The airline flew 2.2 million passengers on its planes last year, a 25 percent growth over the previous year, while the cargo business grew 29 percent to 63,726 tonnes.

Total revenue in the review period bumped 32.98 percent to Sh70.22 billion, partly lifted by alternative sources such as air charter services which jumped 300 percent and helped compensate for income lost because of travel restrictions on some routes.

The national carrier reported a net loss of Sh15.8 billion in the review period compared to a net loss of Sh36.2 billion the year before when travel restrictions hit operations hardest, including the grounding of its planes for months.

The latest loss means that KQ has now gone for nine straight years without profits, extending its accumulated losses to Sh144.64 billion.

The airline last made a profit in 2012 when it closed with net earnings at Sh1.66 billion.

The huge accumulated losses have seen KQ slip into negative equity, meaning it is technically insolvent.

KQ’s negative equity deepened to Sh83.4 billion at the end of 2021 from Sh64.2 billion the previous year.