NAIROBI, Kenya (eTN) – Kenya Airways (KQ) on Saturday, launched non-stop flights to Antananarivo, Madagascar and projected the route will increase the airline’s load factor by between 65 to 70 percent.
“We are looking at 65 to 70 percent rise of the load factor in the next year or so that is by using the 737s that carry on average, 120 passengers,” said Mr. Titus Naikuni, the KQ CEO said in Antananarivo on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2008.
The move is part of the airline’s strategy of connecting the French-speaking Indian Ocean Islands of Madagascar, Seychelles, Comoros and Mayotte to Paris, Europe and West Africa via Nairobi.
KQ will use flight KQ 464 and KQ 465 to eventually to operate three non-stop flights between Antananarivo and Nairobi on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Naikuni, however, said the airline will start with two weekly flights on Tuesdays and Thursdays and add a third frequency every Saturday beginning December 2008. Madagascar becomes the 44th destination for KQ to operate in Africa, and the second within the Indian Ocean, after Comoros and Mayotte.
He said Madagascar is prime to KQ because like Comoros and Mayotte, the Indian Ocean Islands provide the only bridge by airlines to the Far East. Madagascar will also be useful to KQ as a feeder route for its Paris flights. KQ flies three times a week to the Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Though opening new routes will depend on where KQ gets new traffic rights, Naikuni said the airline’s next strategy is to increase frequencies where they currently fly in order to improve quality of the product they offer. “For example, we want to be able to replicate the Dar-es Salaam and Entebbe routes, where if our customer miss one flight in the morning, we can reschedule them on the afternoon one,” said Naikuni.
KQ employs the hub and spook model by using its Jomo Kenyatta International Airport hub to interconnect Africa to Europe, the Middle and Far East destinations.
He said the ultimate goal for KQ is to enable people traveling within the continent reach their destination through a maximum of one connection. “You do not have to go through more than two capitals to get to your destination,” said Naikuni.
KQ 464 will leave Nairobi at 08.00 hrs (local time) and arrive in Antananarivo at 11.45hrs (local time). The return flight, KQ 465 will leave Antananarivo at 13.45hrs (local time) and arrive in Nairobi at 17.30hrs (local time).
Naikuni said KQ will leverage on their code-share agreement with Air Madagascar, which flies non-stop to Nairobi almost a similar number of times to in order to achieve a seamless service almost the entire week.
The Madagascar flights come soon after KQ started non-stop flights to Guangzhou, China, on October 28, 2008.
The airline’s communication manager, Ms Victoria Kaigai, said the airline has unveiled a new winter timetable with increased flights to Bangkok and Hong Kong.
The 12-hour flights to Guangzhou will operate on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays on the airline’s Boeing 777 aircraft. KQ has been flying to Guangzhou through Dubai since 2005.
Guangzhou is a major shopping destination for merchants from Africa, who connect through Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
Apart from reducing their travel time by an estimated 20 percent, travelers on the flights will also eliminate a 2-hour stop-over at Dubai.
Kaigai said frequencies to Bangkok will now go up from 6 to 7 times in a week while those to Hong Kong will move from 4 to 5 times a week. KQ recently marked 5 years of operations to Bangkok. The anniversary celebrations coincided with the graduation of 25 Thai crew who will be joining the airline’s cabin crew.
Kaigai said KQ now has a total of 46 Thai crew who will now join the airline’s complement of 863 cabin crew. The anniversary ceremony was graced the Kenyan Ambassador to Thailand, H.E Dr Albert Ekai, top dignitaries, travel agents, and KQ passengers.
During the ceremony the ambassador lauded the role played by Kenya Airways in facilitating trade between Kenya and Thailand.
KQ has embarked on a strategy to consolidate its growth by improving its people, systems and frequencies to meet customer needs.