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Shipping & Logistics

Sudan-Israel deal opens door for direct KQ flights to Tel Aviv

Kenya Airways
A Kenya Airways plane. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Kenya Airways’s #ticker:KQ plans for direct flight to Tel-Aviv have been boosted after Israeli national carrier was given the green light to fly over Sudan airspace on Saturday.

KQ was to start nonstop flights between Kenya and Israel last year but the plans were dealt a blow after Sudan restricted the national carrier from using its airspace to Israel because of diplomatic differences between Tel-Aviv and Khartoum.

KQ chairman Michael Joseph said they are now reviewing the plansto introduce Tel-Aviv route following the latest development.

“We have noted some news about overfly rights and we will review our plans. I don’t know when we can start but we are evaluating the possibility,” said Mr Joseph in an interview with Shipping & Logistics.

The Kenya Airways was scheduled to start weekly flights to Tel Aviv in March this year but the plans appear to have been scuttled by political differences between Khartoum and Tel Aviv that saw Sudan impose blockade on flights going or moving out of Israel.

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The airliner has to secure permission from the Sudanese government to allow the airline overfly its airspace.

The new development comes at a time when Uganda and Israel have agreed on direct flights between the two countries, in what is likely to heighten competition in the region once KQ embarks on that route. RwandAir already flies to Tel-Aviv.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Uganda this month for bilateral talks where he announced that his country was ready to start direct flight between Tel-Aviv and Entebbe.

RwandAir started direct flights to Tel-Aviv last year becoming the first airline from East Africa to make inroads in Israel as the Kenya Airways’ inaugural flight plan remained on ice.

The Rwanda airline commenced its three weekly flights to Israel in June last year operating Boeing 737-800 from its hub in Kigali.

KQ officials were in Israel in June last year where they met with the Israeli transportation minister Yisrael Katz to discuss the plan.

The airline had been given the green light to start direct flights to Israel only for Sudanese government to apply brakes. Mr Netanyahu said Israel airline flew over Sudan airspace on Saturday, terming the move as a milestone for the country. The move implies that the new Sudanese government is warming up to better relationship with Israel, following the ousting of Sudanese strongman Omar al-Bashir last year.

Tel Aviv has long been suspicious of Khartoum, which was traditionally seen as a close ally to Iran. But in 2017, Khartoum joined Sunni Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in severing its ties with the Islamic Republic.

KQ has been restructuring its network, opening new destinations, adding frequencies and shifting gateways as it seeks to offer passengers travelling between continents the best possible connectivity and the shortest routes.

Regional airlines have been pushing for open skies policy to allow national carriers to move without restrictions to other countries, but this is yet to be achieved. African nations have moved to protect their airlines from stiff competition, putting in doubt whether the dream of open sky policy will be achieved.

According to the World Bank, Africa is home to 12 percent of the world’s population, but it accounts for less than one per cent of the global air service market.

Part of the reason for Africa’s under-served status, according the World Bank study, is because many African countries are restricting their air services markets to protect the share held by state-owned air carriers.

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