Kenya aviation news update – ‘Turf war with Eritrean, what turf war?’

A regular source from Nairobis aviation industry, close to Kenya Airways, has dismissed a media report in leading business daily of an imminent turf war between Eritrean Airlines and Kenya Airways as patently false pointing to the existing bilateral air services agreement between the two countries which governs air transport between Kenya and Eritrea.
Both airlines intend to resume flights between Asmara and Nairobi, for Kenya Airways very well in line with their expressed objective to link all African commercial and political capitals by 2013 through their hub in Nairobi and becoming the airline of choice when flying into Africa.
The arrival of more Embraer E190 jets in coming weeks under a current order and the start of the deliveries of more such aircraft from early 2012 onwards will allow KQ to aggressively roll out their network on the continent and begin serving destinations which in the past had to be dropped for a number of reasons, like Asmara, but partly also due to not having the right sized aircraft on the fleet.
Here Kenya Airways has an advantage over Eritrean, which only operates an Airbus A320 and a long haul Boeing B767-200, while Kenya Airways has relatively more aircraft to choose from to meet the demand for the route with Embraers E170 and E190 and different sized B 737s, ranging from the classic -300 to the NG versions of the -700 and -800s.
Eritrean Airlines was quoted in the Kenyan media as aiming at the cargo market which would almost inevitably require the use of the larger B767 to uplift palletized cargo as well as the leisure and business market, raising eyebrows though amongst observers. While undoubtedly Eritrea as a country does have a significant tourism potential, it is also a country under the most severe of anti travel advisories due to the murky role its government plays in the Somalia conflict and the simmering conflict with Ethiopia. Defections of national and league football teams while playing tournaments in Kenya are also fresh in everyones mind, and while many of the players found new clubs in as far as Australia, they are also ardent critics of the human rights situation in Eritrea and vehemently opposed to the regime back home and any economic support for them, advocating strong sanctions to bring about political change and freedom. In fact sanctions from the US are preventing the official delivery of spares for the maintenance of the B767 or the lease or sale to Eritrean Airlines of aircraft from US based firms, and as Airbus too has US made components used in the manufacture of aircrafts a fleet expansion by Eritrean, though affirmed to be on the drawing board, will be fraught with problems and challenges to overcome such hurdles. Sanctions also cast doubts over the ability to maintain such aircraft to the highest possible standards and this may yet be a decisive factor over being accepted by the market on a route where such issues matter a lot.
Said the same source in closing: The type of aircraft used on this route and the number of frequencies will be subject to what the BASA stipulates and what both governments and Civil Aviation Authorities finally agree on. Kenya Airways does not fear competition and the airlines track record of traffic uplifted in the wider East African region speaks for itself. Kenya Airways would not engage in turf wars or make public comments about the plans of other airlines but has a vision, a strategy which will be rolled out over the next 2 years to connect Africa to and from Nairobi.
Watch this space for daily aviation news updates from the entire Eastern African and Indian Ocean regions.