British Airways set to battle for East African market share


From the Worlds Favourite Airline it has been a long way to being just another airline coming to East Africa and the strikes and subsequent negative reports last year did little to swing public opinion back to BA, translating into yielding traffic share to other airlines coming to East Africa, notably the giant Gulf carriers but also to Kenya Airways and Virgin on the route to Nairobi.
But the powers that be apparently decreed that enough is enough and decided to not just show flag but significantly increase capacity of flights to Nairobi, Entebbe and Dar es Salaam, Kigali and Bujumbura not yet appearing on the BA horizon it seems.
Information received from BAs East Africa manager George Mawadri, incidentally the first ever East African to be promoted to this position, indicates that across 2012 there will be a marked increase in both frequencies as well as capacity. The B777 presently used on the route to Nairobi will be substituted against a B747-400, a significant rise in per flight capacity, while the presently 7 flights per week are due to rise to 10 a week from a date still to be announced.
Dar es Salaam, presently served only three times a week, strange considering the long standing and close ties between Tanzania and former colonial power Britain, will see as many as 5 flights operated come late 2012 and Entebbe will finally get a fifth flight, about time industry observers are saying considering that KLM, a relative latecomer to Uganda, will be going to 6 flights a week later in 2012, though combined with Kigali / Rwanda.
How this will translate into recapturing market share however for passengers and cargo will remain to be seen, as Kenya Airways too seems set to react to the news by adding more flight of their own, while the arrival of Etihad in Nairobi will add yet another one of the Gulf giants to the competitive fray, with Emirates and Qatar Airways already ahead of the pack, in terms of fares, connectivity and service levels. In particular Qatar Airways seems set to connect the entire East Africa by the end of the year, having just added Kigali to their network as 17th destination, and Kilimanjaro, Mombasa and Zanzibar are due to follow over the next few months, combined with an increase to three flights PER DAY to Dar es Salaam, where BA presently only flies 3 times PER WEEK.
Some observers have questioned though the difference in equipment used, with BA operating a wide body while Qatar for instance uses an A320 single aisle aircraft, but as witnessed just a few days ago, those planes are state of the art, equipped with wireless connectivity FOR FREE while in flight and have a seat comfort for the 5 or 6 hours of flight of superior quality in economy, though no flat beds (yet) in business class.
Those considerations however feature only on the periphery for British Airways, which is set to push ahead with their capacity increases as tourism and business visitors keep streaming into East Africa in unprecedented numbers.
Watch this space for an upcoming interview with George Mawadri due for publication in April.