EA states take turf war to KQ with more planes and routes


An Airbus A220 bought by Air Tanzania recently. PHOTO | COURTESY

All East African countries will have national carriers by the end of 2019, bringing heightened competition in the region’s aviation industry as airlines jostle for customers.

The move, which comes as a relief to travellers who are poised to enjoy reduced fares resulting from the rivalry, might come as a blow to Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ which has had near monopoly on these routes amid complaints over exorbitant charges.

On Friday last week, Tanzania received Airbus 220-300 as it prepares for international flights both within and outside the continent.

The plane was the second Airbus for the neighbouring country in less than a month after it acquired another one last December, bringing to six the number of aircraft that Air Tanzania Company Ltd has received in recent months.

After many false starts, President Yoweri Museveni has intervened on the revival of the Uganda national carrier, now slated to be operational by June this year, after a decade-long hiatus. Uganda is one of the profitable routes for KQ but the revival of Uganda Airlines will directly eat into the carrier’s earnings.

President Museveni is on record having lamented about high fares that KQ charges passengers travelling to or from Uganda.

Air Tanzania is also eyeing Lusaka, Johannesburg, and Harare with flights likely to begin in February.

This is also one of the key routes for KQ, especially in Zambia and Zimbabwe which do not have national airlines.

Ethiopia Airlines, one of KQ’s fiercest rivals, has been reviving some of the stalled national carriers, mainly in the southern Africa region where it operates a substantial number of flights.

The airline acquired a 45 per cent stake in Zambia Airways, which is set to be re-launched after more than two decades.

Under the pact, the Zambian government will be the majority shareholder with a 55 per cent stake.

KQ has at least four daily flights to Dar es Salaam, five to Entebbe, four to Lusaka and at least one daily flight to Livingstone (Zambia). KQ also flies to two other cities in Zambia.

Ethiopian Airlines is also seeking to set up hubs in southern, central and the Horn of Africa.