Kenya Airways chief executive Sebastian Mikosz gestures during a past event. The airline has marked one year since the inaugural direct flight to the US

Kenya Airways Plc on Tuesday marked one year since starting operating non-stop between Nairobi and New York. 

During the year, the national carrier ferried over 105,000 passengers, operated 594 flights and continues to establish strategic partnerships to provide options for more seamless connections between Africa and US.

The airline was the first in East Africa to fly non-stop into a US city and since the launch of the NBO – NYC route on October 28, 2018, the national carrier has signed 15 Codeshare agreements which have seen it steadily penetrate the highly competitive US market.

Speaking about the anniversary on Tuesday, Kenya Airways Group Managing Director & Chief Executive Sebastian Mikosz said, “The US and the American continent continue to be an essential piece of the puzzle in our network. There have been challenges in the last year but overall, the decision to launch our flights on this route has been rewarding.”

The CEO added that KQ has been “consistent on the route” flying daily during the peak season and five times weekly during low season. The airline has had to make the necessary frequency re-adjustments for operational efficiency which saw it achieve an average cabin factor of 75% during the year.

“We have maintained consistency in our flights and going forward, we will be looking to increase the partnerships in order to fully realize the potential and gains of this investment. We are strategically positioned on Terminal 4 at JFK which has been critical to our success as a lone African Carrier in that space,” Mikosz added.

Since 2018, KQ has focused on expanding its network as part of the airline’s growth strategy and this route has created the shortest gateway for leisure and corporate travelers to Africa from the finance capital of the world – New York.

KQ’s entry on the New York route was aligned with its broader strategy of increasing connectivity for premium travelers in US and Europe. The US is one of Kenya’s top tourist source markets, with about 95,000 tourists visiting Kenya every year. KQ is pursuing plans to take up partnership opportunities that ensure seamless connectivity to some of Kenya’s world-renowned tourist destinations such as Maasai Mara.

Read: KQ Hits Turbulence on Hyped New York Route

The NBO-NYC route has also been a key attraction for travelers connecting to other areas in the region thus growing passenger numbers on KQ’s network in Africa.

 During the year, KQ connected 34 African countries to the US.  The top traffic sources from Africa have been Nigeria- 16.3 %, Uganda- 14.7 %, South Africa- 15 %, Tanzania- 11.7 % and Congo -8%.

The introduction of this route has been critical in supporting commerce for Kenya and the rest of Africa using Nairobi as the hub by reducing transport time and costs, facilitating knowledge and people flow as well as increasing foreign exchange earnings. There are over 48 American companies and other agencies such as UN that have their regional headquarters in Kenya.

In the last 11 months, KQ has transported 530 tonnes of cargo from Kenya and 80 tonnes from the other African countries to New York. From Kenya, the main goods transported have been textiles under the AGOA agreement which has been supported by KQ’s partnership with trucking companies for last-mile deliveries. 

The airline is also working with the Flower Council of Kenya and other regulatory bodies in Kenya and the US to open up the flower business which has shown huge potential.  944 tonnes of cargo was also ferried from New York to Africa through the KQ flights.

See also: Lessons for Kenya Airways in the Collapse of Thomas Cook

The Kenya Airways New York flight takes 15 hours from Nairobi to New York and 14 hours and 10 minutes from New York to Nairobi. The route is operated on the Boeing 787 – 8 Dreamliner which features 30 Business Class seats, 207 Economy Class seats.

The airline will also be conducting a series of events throughout the week in Kenya & New York to celebrate and appreciate their customers, partners, agents, and staff whose contribution and hard work have ensured the continued success of the NBO – NYC route.


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