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KQ goes to Madagascar

NAIROBI, November 2 – Co-operation among businesses has been touted as the way to grow in the face of hard economic times, so says Kenya Airways CEO Titus Naikuni while launching the route to Madagascar.

Africa has been looked at as a helpless continent that has got to rely on assistance from others, he said on the weekend, but with collaboration amongst its business class this view can be changed. He said KQ’s ultimate goal is to improve connectivity across the 53 African states.

A Kenya Airways (KQ) Boeing 737-700 aircraft made the inaugural three-hour flight to Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital city on Saturday.

“KQ would like to see a scenario where every capital city on the continent is linked by one or two steps,” said Mr Naikuni. “You should be able to fly to any capital in Africa either directly or through just one connection.”

KQ is projecting that the route will increase their load factor by between 65 and 70 percent in the next year, operating three non-stop flights between Antananarivo and Nairobi on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. “We will however start with two weekly flights and add a third beginning December 2008,” revealed the CEO.

Mr Naikuni stated that Kenya Airways and Air Madagascar have perfected two important business tenets; co-operation and competition to come up with ‘co-opetition.’   They have entered into a code sharing agreement that would see them fly between Nairobi and Antananarivo on alternate days, thus covering the entire week.

Speaking at a press briefing in Antananarivo’s Ivato Airport, Mr Naikuni also said that this arrangement would enable their customers to fly between the two destinations every day of week on either of the carriers.

“If you have a ticket on Kenya Airways you will be able to use it on Air Madagascar and vice-versa,” he said.

Admitting that the airline industry is struggling, the KQ Chief Executive said many airlines would not undertake a venture like opening up a new route, but that he was confident going to Madagascar was a prudent business move.

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“We are particularly confident in the Madagascar route. This has given us the resolve to go ahead with our plans,” said Naikuni.

Madagascar and the Indian Ocean islands provide a bridge to the Far East; a region that cannot be ignored said Mr Naikuni. “Madagascar will also be useful to KQ as a feeder route for its Paris flights. KQ flies three times a week to the Charles de Gaulle Airport,” he offered.

On Thursday, October 30, the Kenyan carrier announced a 62.7 percent drop in its profits after tax from Sh1.9 billion registered in the six months to September, 2007, to Sh736 million by the end of September, 2008.

Speaking to the press, KQ’s Group Finance Director Alex Mbugua attributed the downturn to high fuel costs and the strong shilling against the dollar in recent months.

At the media briefing, Mr Naikuni expressed confidence of favourable results in the next six months, if the shilling continues to weaken and the fuel prices stabilise.

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