, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 30 – Kenya Airways has signed a purchase agreement with Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer for 26 new jets.
The deal will see KQ buy 10 E190 aircraft upfront with the option of purchasing a further 16 planes of the same class or other models of the E jet in future.
KQ Managing Director Titus Naikuni said the first jet was expected to be delivered by mid next year.
Kenya Airways has been aggressively moving into new markets, especially in Africa, a move that has put a strain on its fleet, which stood at 31 in March.
Mr Naikuni said Kenya Airways’ strategy was to fly to all African capital cities by the end of 2013 with the delivery of the remaining planes staggered through to the end of 2013.
“As we continue to focus on the expansion of our network with longer routes from our hub in Nairobi, the acquisition of new Embraer 190s is key to our growth strategy. The E190 jet fits well with our expansion strategy, giving us an opportunity to expand our network and increase our frequencies,” Mr Naikuni said.
The MD said the narrow-bodied aircraft, with a sitting capacity of 92, were well suited towards achieving its target.
The additional fleet is seen as a step that will help the airline boost its earnings through increased passenger traffic on its current and planned new routes as well as bring on board fuel-efficient planes, which are a key profit driver since fuel accounts form a significant portion of the airline’s operating costs.
“The E190s excellent range, efficiency, size and superior level of comfort will allow us to increase frequencies and start new routes along with improving the overall passenger experience throughout Africa,” he said.
Mr Naikuni however stressed the need to have the aircraft delivered on time, seeing the numerous delays that have been occasioned by its primary supplier, Boeing.
The two companies have reached a settlement agreement on the delayed delivery of the nine Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners with the first aircraft expected in the fourth quarter of 2013 pushing the initial date from October 2010.
To support growth in the meantime, the airline will focus on narrow-bodied aircraft such as the Embraer. The MD however did not rule out talking to other aircraft manufacturers should the need arise.
‘We will go on signing deals with different manufacturers as we continue to expand. We can’t afford to put all our eggs in one basket,” he said.
With this new contract the total number of Embraer’s ordered by KQ will be boosted to 33, considering the aircraft acquired directly from the manufacturer or through leasing companies.
Kenya Airways is currently operating five E170s and two E190s.
Embraer Vice President for Middle East and Africa Mathiew Duquesnoy said Africa and Kenya in particular presented an ideal growth market.
“This confirmation is a sign that our E-jets have been instrumental in the growth of our largest operator in sub Saharan Africa and provided it with an optional tool to develop new routes which is a win-win situation for both companies,” Mr Duquesnoy said.