Shipping & Logistics

Airline cites empty cargo flights from US hurdle

An Astral Aviation cargo plane. FILE PHOTO | NMG
An Astral Aviation cargo plane. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Direct flights from Kenya to the US might not come as good news to cargo airlines given the minimal freight to be ferried back in the country from America.

Though direct flights between Nairobi and New York are poised to cut the freight charges by 20 per cent, local cargo airlines say they stand to make losses on the route as their aircraft are likely to fly back empty from America.

For the business to be profitable, the airlines must have enough volumes from the US to Kenya, which will cater for overheads.

“There is a lot of cargo that we can ferry to the US, that is not in doubt, the problem only comes in when coming back because there is hardly enough cargo to transport,” says Sanjeev Gadhia, chia executive officer Astral Aviation.

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport received Category 1 status in February last year marking the first step towards getting direct flights between the two countries. Kenya Airways will make the maiden trip in October this year.

Astral has appointed an agent in the US to help in scouting for goods that can be ferried back to Kenya as the airline prepares to seek clearance for direct flight.

“We are keen at starting direct flights, probably towards the end of the year, but we need to strategise first on return cargo,” he said.

The airline is targeting to ferry fresh produce, textile and apparel.