Founded in 1977, following the dissolution of East African Airways, Kenya Airways is the national flag carrier of the East African nation of Kenya. The airline is headquartered in the central Nairobi business district of Embakasi and has its main operating hub at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO).
Until 1996, Kenya Airways was wholly owned by the government of Kenya before becoming the first African flag carrier to privatize successfully. Despite being listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange, the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange, and the Uganda Securities Exchange, the Kenyan government still maintains a 48.9% stake.
A consortium of banks owns 38.1%, and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has a 7.8% stake in the airline. Private individuals own the outstanding shares. Kenya Airways joined several other national flag carriers when it became a member of the SkyTeam alliance in 2010.
Kenya Airways has 36 planes
Historically, Kenya Airways operated a mixed fleet of Airbus, Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, Fokker, Embraer, and ATR aircraft. Today the East African Airline operates a slimmed-down fleet of 36 aircraft made up of planes from Boeing and Embraer. According to the aviation data and statistics website, ch-aviation, Air Kenya’s fleet is comprised of the following aircraft:
- 2 x Boeing 737-300 freighters
- 2 x Boeing 737-700s
- 8 x Boeing 737-800s
- 9 x Boeing 787 Dreamliners
- 15 x ERJ 190-100ARs
Of these aircraft, Kenya Airways owns 19 planes and leases the other 17 from lessors that include Nordic Aviation Capital and GECAS. With its aircraft, Kenya Airways serves 41 destinations in Africa and 13 destinations further afield, utilizing its flagship Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Kenya Airways operates one of the youngest fleets of aircraft in Africa, with an average age of 9.6 years. Before the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically affected air travel, Kenya Airways flew over four million passengers per year.
Leadership wants consolidation
Before the global medical emergency decimated the airline industry, Kenya Airways was looking to expand its fleet to better compete with African powerhouse Ethiopian Airlines. Today that is the last thing on Kenya Airways CEO Allan Kilavuka’s mind.
As things stand in a post-COVID-19 world, there will not be enough passenger demand to support the number of airlines currently operating on the African continent. The fact is that recovery to 2019 passenger numbers could take years to return, and many airlines do not have the financial backing to weather the storm.
For this reason, Kilavuka believes that consolidation will be essential when moving forward. When speaking in a webinar with other African airline bosses during the height of the pandemic, the website How We Made It In Africa quotes Mr. Kilavuka saying the following:
“It will be important for us to consolidate both within the country and also across the various African countries so that we can be able to utilize our assets more effectively. So, I personally believe we need to do that.”
Kenya Airways lost 36.57 billion shillings ($333 million) in 2020 and has asked its biggest shareholder, the Kenyan government, to help it survive. Kenya Airways’ current joint venture with Air France-KLM is due to expire in September and has CEO Kilavuka thinking about a possible merger. When speaking about Kenya Airways situation earlier this year with newswire service Reuters, the former Jambojet boss said:
“We can get by now, but we will have to consolidate at some point.”
Last month Kenya Airways signed an interline agreement with South Africa’s Airlink to allow passengers to connect on either airline throughout Africa. This will allow Kenya Airways passengers to fly to Southern African destinations via Airlink hubs at Johannesburg and Cape Town. Likewise, Airlink passengers can transfer to East African destinations via Nairobi and Mombassa.
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Surprisingly, the agreement does not allow Airlink customers to fly on Kenya Airways destinations in Asia, Europe, and North America. This may mean that Kenya Airways is open to working with a large international carrier.
Before the pandemic, Kenya Airways was looking to use its Dreamliners to bring tourists to Africa from around the world. Now that this market is suppressed, Kenya Airways could convert another of its 787 Dreamliner into a temporary freighter. No matter what happens, Kenya Airways will find the going tough without support over the next couple of years.
What do you think the future holds for Kenya Airlines? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments.