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Local airline market is growing: Virgin

NAIROBI, October 16 – The Kenyan air transport market is maintaining its growth despite increasing difficulties being experienced by major international airlines worldwide.

Virgin Atlantic, for instance, is recording up to 95 percent flight bookings daily on its Nairobi – London route, Country Manager Nilanthi Manatunga revealed to Capital Business on Thursday.

“There is a fair amount of friends and family traffic between Nairobi and the UK. There is obviously a fair amount of business traffic and students as well,” Ms Manatunga explained.

Virgin Atlantic operates a daily daytime flight into Nairobi as well as a night flight out of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Ms Manatunga further observed that introduction of new routes by local operators as well as an increase in domestic flights was evidence of a growing local market.

“In the last six months, about 26 airlines have gone into bankruptcy, so the world out there is quite shaky but when I look in Kenya we seem to be defying that,” she observed.

Virgin Atlantic, she went on, is not overlooking the developing recession in developed markets. Ms Manatunga disclosed that the airline has withheld any new capital investments as a strategy to survive any negative effects resulting from the crunch. The cutbacks include a halt to the intended purchase of 15 Dreamliner jets as an addition to its current fleet of 38.

“The market here (in Kenya) is quite resistant, quite resilient. The concern will obviously be how the impact is in USA and in the UK.”

But the Kenyan market, she added, has not been without its share of turbulence. The political skirmishes in the beginning of the year had led to cancellation of 30 percent of flights on the Nairobi- London route.

But the airline fought back with a reduced-fair strategy as well as a Sh65 million marketing initiative in the UK in association with the Kenya Tourism Board.

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