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Shipping & Logistics

Airlines, hotels bet on Kenya-Ireland direct flights to boost tourism, trade

A Kenya Airways plane at JKIA
A Kenya Airways plane at JKIA. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Local air carriers and tourism players have welcomed plans to introduce a direct flight between Nairobi and Ireland’s capital Dublin.

The airlines say the move will help drive up the number of tourists and attract increased investment in tourism.

In an earlier interview with Shipping and Logistics, Ireland minister for business enterprise and innovation, Heather Humphreys said plans were in high gear to connect the two countries.

“The direct connection between our two countries will go a long way in promoting Kenya’s tourism and aviation sub-sectors,” Ms Humphreys said, adding that lack of a reliable flight linking the two countries is impeding investments.

However, she did not provide the timeline for implementation of the plan.

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The Kenya Tourism Federation Chairman Mohammed Hersi welcomed the plan saying lack of a viable direct flight between the two countries is a setback in the hospitality and tourism sectors.

“At the moment, there exist no direct air connectivity between the two countries yet there are uncountable Ireland tourists who want to visit the country’s parks and breathtaking sites,” he says.

He said Kenya Airways should emulate Dubai’s Emirates Airline “that has excelled on the global stage” thanks to its vast fleet network.

To expand tourism, Mr Hersi said, Kenya ought to open its airspace to multiple countries and airlines.

“If at all the national carrier is incapable of handling such connectivity, then it would be imperative for it to allow others to fill the void,” he said, adding that the country is missing out on tourists it could receive through an extensive air connection.

“At the moment, we do not have a direct flight between Mombasa and London yet there are many tourists who would have loved to visit the country if there was a connection,” Mr Hersi said.

“The moment you have multiple flights coming from different destination then that increases hotel occupancy,” he noted.

Mr Hersi said their numerous talks with the KQ to have direct flights between Mombasa and other major airports around the world are yet to bear fruit.

“We have even asked for two or three flights between Mombasa and other major destinations but our cries have gone unheard,” he says.

Safarilink Chief Executive Officer Alex Avedi said direct flights are beneficial as they minimise travelling time.

“For example, a direct flight from Nairobi to Ireland maybe nine hours vis-à-vis flying via Dubai and that could be 17 to 18 hours,” he said.

Moreover, he said the direct Kenya-Ireland flight plan can lead to lower ticket prices due to competition and economy of scale.

In 2017, Kenya secured Category One approval by the US Federal Aviation Authority which elevated the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport into Last Point of Departure (LPD).

In October 2018, the national carrier made the maiden flight to the US’ John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The flight was set to reduce the flight time to 15 hours duration eastbound and 14 westbound, from the previous more than 24 hours.

Currently, Kenya Airways flies to destinations such as China, France, India, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, United Kingdom and Vietnam.

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