Ethiopian Airlines has been granted an additional frequency on the Mombasa route in an agreement between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali.
The airline will now fly to the coastal town twice a day as Ethiopia and Kenya seek to deepen their trade ties.
“The Kenyan side agreed to grant Ethiopian Airlines a second frequency flight to Mombasa,” said a joint communique from State House after Mr Kenyatta met Dr Ali in Nairobi.
The additional slot to the airline will be a boost to coastal tourism which has been heavily dependent on charter flights from Europe. Currently, only two regional airlines — Ethiopian Airlines and RwandAir — operate scheduled flights to Mombasa from Addis Ababa and Kigali respectively.
Turkish Airlines is the only one from Europe operating scheduled flights between Istanbul and Mombasa.
The state-owned Ethiopian Airlines has raced ahead of rivals Kenya Airways and South African Airways to become Africa’s largest airline by revenue and profit.
Its plan was to more than double its fleet to 120 and become Africa’s biggest airline by 2025, but it already has 100 planes flying to dozens of destinations from Asia to South America, including four US cities.
Kenya Airways plans its first direct flight to the US in October. Hoteliers at the Coast have been lobbying for more international direct flights to Mombasa to ease air transport through Moi International Airport and attract more tourists.
Currently, tourists coming to Kenya using other global carriers must first land at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport before connecting to Mombasa.