Kenya Airways plans budget carrier, launches UAE route

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Dr Titus Naikuni, CEO of Kenya Airways.

Dr Titus Naikuni, CEO of Kenya Airways.

Kenya Airways is seeking to launch a budget airline this year as the carrier seeks to expand its presence in eastern Africa, its CEO told Arabian Business.

The Nairobi-based airline, which this week launched flights to Abu Dhabi, said that it would first of all seek to service domestic destinations via a low-cost operation.

“This is a very political business. If you go in to some countries for instance, you won’t be allowed to operate due to licensing issues and all that, but we’re looking at start something in east Africa,” group CEO and managing director Dr Titus Naikuni said.

“[It will be] possibly this year. First of all we’ll start with Kenya – three of four destinations first of all,” he added.

Naikuni did not specify whether Sky Team member Kenya Airways, Africa’s third largest airline, would launch its low cost services with its current fleet. The carrier operates a number of short-haul, narrow body aircraft including 14 Boeing 737s, five Embraer 170s and 13 Embraer 190s. It also has an additional two 190s on order.

Naikuni said that passenger traffic via Gulf hubs Abu Dhabi and Dubai was becoming increasingly important for the carrier, which posted a loss of 7.86bn Kenyan shillings ($92m) in its most recent fiscal year.

That deficit came on the back of travel warnings issued by European Union governments earlier in 2013 due to security concerns surrounding political unrest during the East African country’s recent elections.

Naikuni said that Kenya Airways, which also has a codeshare with Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, was looking to capitalise on the UAE capital’s status as a regional hub to route passengers to points in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as take advantage of growing trade between Kenya and India.

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