KENYA AIRWAYS TOO ASPIRES TO OCCUPY THE CONTINENTAL TOP SPOT
No sooner had a report been filed here last week about Ethiopian Airlines aspiration to be the undisputed Number One airline in Africa, did a regular source from Nairobi rush material and input to this correspondent, claiming that it was in fact Kenya Airways which was to be on top of the African rankings in a decades time.
We appreciate your concerns over the capacity at JKIA [Jomo Kenyatta
International Airport, Kenya?s main aviation gateway in Nairobi] and share many of the issues you raised in a series of articles about aviation, especially the recent one when you compared airline growth under the context of airports not keeping pace with capacity increases. But in a decade, we here in Nairobi will have a second runway, might even plan for a third one, and will probably have even a terminal 5 in operation [Terminal 4 is due to be opened by end 2012]. So Kenya Airways will have all the infrastructure ready on the ground to go into overdrive with our roll out of destinations, in Africa, the Mid and Far East, India, Europe and North America. By 2013 all African capitals or commercial centres will be connected with our Nairobi hub, several times a week or daily or several times a day as traffic demands. There will be a mix of aircraft used for such routes, from wide bodies to the B737 and the new fleet of Embraer E190ARs which are now joining the fleet.
We are stepping up pilot training which you also identified as a restraining factor to airline growth and our Pride Centre at Embakasi has already a B737 simulator. We might expand on this to train even more of our pilots at home. Right now we have 33 aircraft in the fleet, the freighters are now coming and next year we will get more Embraers. The delivery dates for the B787 Dreamliners are still vague but that applies to our rivals also. We are getting two more B777 and have 9 Dreamliners on firm order and 4 more on options. This number is very likely to grow a lot more because by 2021, in ten years time, we might have a fleet three times the size of today. Now that shows we are aware of the opportunities of professionally managed aviation in Africa, in East Africa and are going flat out to see the full potential exploited, aided by our geographical location and by East Africas tourism attractions.
True enough says this correspondent, and while at present giving Ethiopian Airlines a slight edge, in terms of aircraft numbers in the fleet and destinations served internationally with already existing flights between the US and Addis Ababa, the fight for superiority in the African skies will intensify in coming months and years and the outcome will be determined by infrastructure on the ground, quality of the service at airports, in the air and via service centres, punctuality, safety standards and records and the ability to get enough pilots on line to fly all those new planes. Fodder for thought, as the Big Three in Africa, Ethiopian, Kenya Airways and a revitalized South African Airways take their marketing campaigns and battles for supremacy to each other. And as often said in closing, read all about it right here through regular updates, breaking news and opinion pieces.