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Why Kenya tops in domestic air travel in Africa

February 16, 2018 at 05:29 am | Money Moves

Fredrick Ngugi

Fredrick Ngugi | Contributor

February 16, 2018 at 05:29 am | Money Moves

Kenya Airways Boeing 737-700. Photo credit: ATW Online

Despite the hefty financial burden currently weighing heavily on its national carrier Kenya Airways, Kenya has emerged top in domestic air travel in the whole of Africa. According to a study last year by Forward Keys, a travel intelligence organization, domestic air travel in Kenya’s capital Nairobi grew by 22 percent in 2017, ahead of Tunis and Addis Ababa, which grew by 14 percent and 9 percent respectively.

The study also recorded 8 percent growth in long-haul international flights to Nairobi, which is 14 percent lower than domestic flights. This makes Nairobi the only city in Africa where domestic flights surpass international traffic.

Over 200,000 online and offline travel agencies from around the world were involved in the study, which was carried out between January 1 and July 31 2017. The extensive research involved collation of data on travel reservations by the travel agencies and airports across 10 major cities in Africa.

Impressive Growth amid Financial Uncertainty

In its findings, Forward Keys identified several key factors that are facilitating the impressive growth in Kenya’s domestic travel. Key among them is the recent upgrading of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, which now has three new arrival terminals, each of which has the capacity to handle at least 2.5 million passengers annually.

Other major airports across the country have also undergone major restoration as part of the country’s long-term Vision 2030 development plan. These improvements have significantly changed the way Kenyan airports carry out their daily operations by ensuring there is improved quality of service, security and controlled access to meet international standards.

Growing domestic tourism has also had a major impact on local air travel in Kenya. The country’s emerging middle class has developed an increased appetite for holidays and travel by air. Consequently, the growing demand for air transport in the country has seen an increase in the number of local air carriers entering the market.

With more local airlines in the market, the cost of air travel in Kenya has gone down tremendously, making it easier and cost-effective for domestic travellers to tour the country. Overall, the entire East African region has recorded a significant growth in domestic travel, with international flights growing by close to 17 percent, according to Forward Keys.

Even so, the rising domestic flights in Kenya do not solve the financial troubles facing Kenya Airways, which was once regarded as the “Pride of Africa”. Over the last three years, the airline has been recording major losses that often run into billions of Kenyan shillings.

Many experts have blamed corruption and mismanagement of resources as the main causes of the airline’s decline. All hopes are now pegged on the company’s new management, which comprises of Sebastian Mikoz, the former President and Chief Executive Officer of LOT Polish Airlines, and Michael Joseph, the former Chief Executive Officer of Safaricom Limited to overturn the company’s misfortunes.

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