Kenya Airways and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines are partnering to offer a direct air freight service between China and Africa.
The initiative was announced last week and will fly twice weekly between Nairobi, Kenya, and Guangdong, China, using a Martinair Boeing 747-400F freighter. Martinair is a subsidiary of the Air France-KLM Group.
The joint venture is the first to offer direct air cargo services between mainland China and Africa. It also marks Kenya Airways’ entry into freighter service with a dedicated Boeing 747F, the airline said.
KLM and Kenya Airways unveiled the 747 freighter on Tuesday, dubbed ‘Safari Connection’ and bearing the slogan ‘Hunting for Business’ in Mandarin. KQ Cargo and KLM Cargo will operate it on the Amsterdam-Guangzhou-Nairobi-Lagos-Nairobi-Amsterdam circuit. The aircraft will make stopovers in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates on its way from Guangzhou to Nairobi.
Kenya Airways said the 747 is expected to significantly boost the airline’s capacity to airlift cargo between its growing Asian and African markets while realising higher earnings from cargo as a distinct revenue source.
The cargo freighter has a capacity to carry 120 tonnes, which is over five times the belly capacity of the Boeing 777, the largest aircraft in Kenya Airlines’ fleet.
Kenya Airways plans to introduce twelve freighters into its growing fleet over the ten years, some wholly owned and others leased. This will improve the airline’s overall cargo carrying capability and reduce over-dependence on the passenger fleet whose belly capacity is limited, the carrier said.
The airline carried over 56 000 metric tonnes of cargo in 2010/11 and this is expected to grow following the launch of the freighter line.
KLM is looking to expand its air freight operations into other regions, such as Latin America. Air France-KLM saw a 1.7% decline in cargo revenue last year against the year before.
Kenya Airways, on the other hand, is planning expansion in Beirut, India and the UAE and will double its fleet to 60 aircraft over the next five years. It will also restart Karachi (Pakistan) flights next year, according to Air Cargo News. Its traffic to the Middle East, Far East and India rose 6.8% during the third quarter of last year.