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Kenya rejects Ethiopian Airlines plan on cargo

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Ethiopian Airlines (ET) plane. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) director-general Gilbert Kibe told the Business Daily Monday that Kenya denied ET a licence to ferry cargo using Boeing 737 aircraft on the Addis Ababa-Nairobi-Addis Ababa route.
  • Boeing 737 is a short to medium range twin-jet narrow body plane that carries between 15-20 tonnes of cargo, while the Boeing 777 is a wide-body airline that carriers around 80 tonnes of cargo.
  • Ethiopian Airlines had planned to use the Boeing 737 plane to connect Kenya to its hub in Addis Ababa and fly between Nairobi and Liege, a freight hub in Belgium.

Kenya has rejected Ethiopian Airlines (ET) application to fly cargo in and outside of Kenya using a Boeing 737 aircraft, easing competitive pressure on its top rival, Kenya Airways (KQ).

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) director-general Gilbert Kibe told the Business Daily Monday that Kenya denied ET a licence to ferry cargo using Boeing 737 aircraft on the Addis Ababa-Nairobi-Addis Ababa route but allowed the carrier to continue using the Boeing 777 aircraft for cargo operations on the route.

Boeing 737 is a short to medium range twin-jet narrow body plane that carries between 15-20 tonnes of cargo, while the Boeing 777 is a wide-body airline that carriers around 80 tonnes of cargo.

“What KCAA has denied ET is a licence to include the use of Boeing 737 type of aircraft on its cargo business. The reason why that decision was reached is a confidential matter. It is not for members of the public to know,” said Mr Kibe.

Ethiopian Airlines had planned to use the Boeing 737 plane to connect Kenya to its hub in Addis Ababa and fly between Nairobi and Liege, a freight hub in Belgium.

It was not immediately clear why the airline wanted to use a Boeing 737, which has a smaller cargo capacity compared to the Boeing 777 and Boeing 757 that the carrier uses for Kenya’s freight business.

The approval hitch look set to ease competitive pressure on Kenya Airways, which uses Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) as its main cargo hub.

Kenya Airways generates about Sh11 billion annually from freight, which includes shipping flowers, fresh fruits, and vegetables like green beans.

Freight business has also come under pressure from disruptions caused by the Covid-19.

Ethiopian Airlines has been keen to deploy more cargo planes to compensate for the reduced passenger numbers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

In April, Kenya Airways contested a government deal allowing Ethiopian Airlines to operate passenger planes grounded by the coronavirus for shipment of cargo from the JKIA in Nairobi to Europe and Asia.

The loss-making KQ said the deal gave the rival carrier undue advantage in a period when Kenya had frozen international passenger travel.

On April 6, the Ministry of Transport allowed Ethiopian Airlines to vary its licence for passenger planes and use six aircraft to ferry cargo from Nairobi and Mombasa to overseas at a time when carriers are charging a premium for the service.