IS QATAR AIRWAYS FINALLY HEADING TO MOMBASA?
(Posted 10th June 2013)
Word from regular sources in the aviation industry has it that Qatar Airways, after delaying the start of scheduled flights to Mombasa last year over what appears to have been traffic right issues, may now finally commence a daily service, using Airbus A320 equipment, by the end of August this year.
Last year a major row was reportedly brewing when Qatar’s plans to fly via Nairobi to Kilimanjaro, where thwarted by Kenyan authorities, which, in an inexplicable turnabout at the last moment withdrew verbal promises made that the airline would be given 5th freedom rights between Nairobi and JRO.
Unlike on the route between Entebbe and Kigali, which Qatar Airways also serves daily, and where full traffic rights have been extended to the airline by both governments, Kenya appears to have backed out of their initial commitment, bowing to pressure from other airlines flying on the route.
This resulted at the time in a hectic last minute operational switch which saw Kilimanjaro combined with Dar es Salaam, and a subsequent drop of plans to fly to Mombasa, which was due to be served, again with full traffic rights, via Dar es Salaam.
It could not be established which final routing Mombasa flights might take, if combined with either Dar or Nairobi, but a Mombasa airport source insists that flights are indeed due to commence on August 30th this year.
This will put Qatar into direct competition with Ethiopian Airlines, which also serves Mombasa on a daily basis, but regularly uses their slower Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft, and with Turkish which uses a B737NG version, presently the only two foreign airlines serving Mombasa on scheduled flights besides national airline Kenya Airways. [Tanzanian airlines flying into Mombasa are not considered ‘foreign’
under EAC rules]
No confirmation however could be received at this time if the airlines is still eyeing Zanzibar, which was also due to commence last year and has been postponed, or flights to Bujumbura which – or so it was understood – QR is also eyeing. A further expansion into Eastern Africa would see Qatar Airways face up directly to Turkish Airlines’ relentless rollout into Africa, which is pursuing a similar market strategy and also uses a narrow body aircraft like QR does. It would also show the airline’s priorities for catching future traffic from what has of late been described as ‘a region rich in newly discovered oil, gas and other natural resources, undertaking massive infrastructure investments over the coming years in highways, railways and pipelines’. It would also come only weeks after Qatar Airways announced their withdrawal from the Seychelles after serving the archipelago uninterrupted since 2004. Watch this space for regular and breaking news from Eastern Africa’s vibrant aviation sector.