Tougher competition for KQ as regional airlines add fleet


Ethiopian Airlines operates the newest and most modern 100 aircraft, with an average age of less than five years. file photo | nmg

Regional airlines are boosting the numbers of their fleet and expanding to new routes as the competition for airspace intensifies in Eastern Africa, a move likely to eat into the Kenya Airways dominance.

Ethiopian Airlines will acquire its 100th aircraft next month, making it the first African carrier to operate such number of aircrafts.

“This milestone is a continuation of our historical aviation leadership role in Africa and a testimony of the successful implementation of our fast, profitable and sustainable growth plan, Vision 2025,” said Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Tewolde GebreMariam in a statement. The Kenya Airways has a fleet of about 40 aircrafts that it operates inside and outside the African continent. The national career is recalling some of its planes it leased as it embarks on preparation for direct flights to America.

Uganda is also eyeing a cut of the region’s flying space and has bought six planes as it plans to revive its national carrier which was liquidated in 2001. Uganda’s airline is bound to bring competition right at the doorstep of KQ, which has been enjoying monopoly in the country.

The re-introduction of Uganda national airline is also likely to have an impact on budget career Jambojet, which started plying the Ugandan route on February.

Jambojet chief executive officer Willem Hondius, however, says they are not worried by Uganda’s move saying they will compete effectively with the new players in the market.

“Demand for Uganda is growing and we are not worried at all with the new development. We shall compete with them favourably,” said Mr Hondius.

In the last three months, he said the Ugandan market has grown by 35 per cent, signifying high demand for air travel.

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“The growth in Ugandan market since our entry in February means that it (market) is big enough for all of us,” he added.

Ethiopian Airlines will start a new route to the US on second of June, the fourth destination in America, coming at a time when KQ is scheduled to commence non-stop flights to New York in October this year.

Ethiopian operates the newest and most modern 100 aircraft, with an average age of less than five years. The airline has ordered five more Boeing 787-900 and 16 Airbus A350 airplanes to be delivered soon.

The airline is at the moment implementing a 15-year strategic plan, Vision 2025, as it seeks to become a regional leader.

Rwanda is also not being left behind in the new battle for East African airspace. Like Kenya, it is targeting direct flights to the US with preparations underway for inspection by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The audit will be conducted in September this year.

Kenya is undergoing the last stages of direct flights to the US, after Jomo Kenyatta International Airport was granted Category 1 status. If Rwanda gets FAA nod, it will make competition stiffer for KQ in the US route.

Air Tanzania is too welcoming a new aircraft- Bombardier Q-400, which is the third since President John Magufuli rose to power, in an effort to revive the ailing airline.

The airline has lined up three more jet aircrafts, including two Bombardier C300s and one Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner to arrive in the country before the end of this year.

The Ethiopia Airlines, perhaps KQ’s fiercest rival, is now reviving some of the stalled national careers, mainly in the Southern African region where it operates a substantial number of flights.

The Airlines has acquired a 45 per cent stake in Zambia Airways that 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, fiver to Entebbe, four to Lusaka Zambia and at least one more other daily flight to Livingstone (Zambia). Ethiopian Airlines is also seeking to set up hubs in southern Africa, Central Africa and the Horn that connect neighbouring countries.

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