Etihad Airways yesterday announced that it will begin flying to Nairobi, its first destination in East Africa, from April 1 next year.
The airline will introduce a daily service from Abu Dhabi to Nairobi using a two class A320 aircraft with 16 business class and 120 economy seats.
Nairobi becomes the 72nd destination in Etihad’s global network and the return flights will create a new link between the two capital cities of Kenya and the United Arab Emirates, the airline said.
“This new route will allow Etihad to tap into large traffic flows between East Africa, North Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent,” the airline‘s Chief Executive Officer, James Hogan, said.
“Our strategy is to target areas of strong growth in emerging economies such as North, East and Central Africa and we have a number of other destinations under active consideration.
“Nairobi is an ideal addition to Etihad’s global footprint. There are 38,000 Kenyan nationals residing in the UAE and there are large and established point-to-point traffic flows between the two countries.
“Also, Abu Dhabi and Kenya have much in common economically. Both have 2030 plans in which tourism plays a vital role and the UAE is one of the largest exporters to the country.”
Last year more than two million tourists visited Kenya, including some 295,000 from the Middle East.
This new route will also service the considerable and growing flow of people and capital between Kenya and North Asia, with major Chinese investment in Africa generating passenger demand in both directions.
The managing director of the Kenya Airports Authority, Stephen Gichuki said that, “Kenya Airports Authority has enjoyed a good relationship with Etihad Airways throughout its three years of operations to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, and I would like to congratulate the airline on the positive growth of its operations to Nairobi. We are confident Etihad will continue to prosper serving this route.
“Our airport is currently undergoing an expansion and upgrading of its facilities which includes the construction of a new terminal. This will have the capacity to handle 20 million passengers, and construction is expected to begin in January 2012.”
Etihad began dedicated cargo services to Nairobi in March 2009 and now operates five freighter flights with a total capacity of 340 tonnes each week. This will increase by five per cent from April 1.
Etihad is the national airline of the United Arab Emirates and is based at Abu Dhabi International Airport. It serves 72 cities in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, with a fleet of 61 Airbus and Boeing aircraft. It has 100 aircraft on order, including 10 Airbus A380s, the world’s largest passenger aircraft. This year, three A330-300s and two B777-300ERs have been delivered.
Etihad is expanding rapidly and expects to break even this year. Last month the carrier said its revenues grew by 28 percent to US$1.72 billion in the first half of the year.
Seat factor — the percentage of available seats that are filled during a specific period — increased to 72.9% from 72.5 percent seen in the first half of 2010, while passenger numbers rose 14% to 3.8 million, Hogan said.
Etihad, which competes with other big regional carriers like Qatar Airways and Emirates , said it looks to break even by the end of the year and see sustainable profits in 2012.
Revenues from Etihad’s cargo operations were up by 32 per cent in the first half, helped by improvement in tonnage and yields, the airline said in the statement.
Unrest in the Middle East have impacted regional carriers with Emirates saying its revenue could be hit by 3 to 5 percent.