Shipping & Logistics

KQ rivals raise competition with Valentine’s cargo plan

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Outgoing Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) Director-General Gilbert Kibe. PHOTO | POOL

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Summary

  • The airlines have applied for ad-hoc flights from Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) to boost the limited capacity at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
  • Ministry of Transport in November said it would not grant Ethiopian Airlines permission to fly directly from Nairobi to Europe without making a stopover at its base at Bole International Airport

Qatar and Ethiopian airlines are seeking approval from the aviation regulator to operate direct cargo flights from Nairobi ahead of this year’s Valentine Day, stepping up competition with Kenya Airways which has previously opposed the move.

The airlines have applied for ad-hoc flights from Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) to boost the limited capacity at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

Ministry of Transport in November said it would not grant Ethiopian Airlines permission to fly directly from Nairobi to Europe without making a stopover at its base at Bole International Airport after Addis Ababa denied KQ #ticker:KQ rights to fly directly from Bole.

Normally, foreign airlines are not allowed to fly directly from Kenya to any other part of the country without making a stopover at their hub, but KCAA can allow ad-hoc flights within a certain window.

KCAA director-general Gilbert Kibe confirmed that Ethiopian Airlines and Qatar Airways have sought approval for direct flights but did not indicate whether they will be allowed.

Ethiopian Airlines country manager Tigist Terefe said they will offer capacity according to their operation schedule during this peak season, without saying whether they have received approval.

“We will avail capacity depending on how our operation will allow us,” Ms Terefe said in an interview with the Business Daily.

This window is normally lucrative to airlines given high the demand and volumes of cargo to be transported directly to the market.

Flower farmers were in November last year forced to throw away a quarter of their produce due to a drop in airline traffic imposed on rival carriers to protect Kenya Airways and it remains to be seen if Ethiopian Airlines, which has also made a request will be allowed.

In 2020, local freight operators including Kenya Airways protested after Ethiopian Airlines was issued with ad-hoc flights between Nairobi and Europe, a decision that KCAA defended.

Kenya has said it will not approve additional freighters from Ethiopia Airlines after Addis refused to allow KQ to fly cargo directly to Europe from Bole International Airport, forcing the national carrier to route through Nairobi.

KQ has increased flights to Europe and it is now operating daily on that route coming as a major boost to the horticulture industry.

JKIA has a capacity deficit of between 1,600 and 2,000 tonnes at the moment and additional capacity is needed during this peak period to save farmers from losses.

The stakeholders in the sector met with the official from the government on Monday to discuss the need for adding more capacity at JKIA to cater for an increase in flowers.

“The government has assured us that they will increase freight capacity by approving some of the airlines that have applied for ad-hoc flights in order to cater for huge volumes expected this February,” said an association of exporters.

The additional space is likely to address the current cost of freight charges that range from $4.5-5.3 per kilo, which is one of the highest in recent months. Before the Covid-19 disruption, a kilo of cargo was going at an average of $3.5. The cost is based on the airline and destination where the cargo is being flown to.

Europe accounts for nearly 70 percent of Kenya’s cut flower exports and the limited cargo capacity and high freight costs are making it difficult for Kenya to serve this market, threatening thousands of jobs.

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