NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 12 – National carrier Kenya Airways has signed a lease agreement with General Electric Aviation Services (GECAS) for two Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.
The agreement signals KQ’s strategy of boosting capacity on its long haul flights, with Managing Director Titus Naikuni saying the aircraft would enhance the airline’s ability to increase its frequency into Europe and the Far East.
“It gives us range in the sense that we will be able to fly direct in about 11 or 12 hours between here (Nairobi) and areas such as Beijing. It also gives us capacity to put in more seats into the aircraft, increasing our passenger loads,” Naikuni said.
The two aircraft – expected to join KQ’s fleet in October 2013 and May 2014 – are scheduled to operate routes including Amsterdam, Bangkok and Guangzhou, and is part of its 10-year strategy of boosting its fleet to 107 aircraft.
The airline currently operates a fleet of 33 (that includes nine Embraers, 15 Boeing 737s, five Boeing 767s and four Boeing 777s).
Kenya Airways will configure its 777-300ERs with 400 seats, which is an extra passenger capacity of 78 seats over the 777-200ER passenger aircrafts.
The Boeing 777-300ER aircraft has approximately 300 nautical miles more range. This makes the aircraft ideal for maturing heavy passenger traffic routes, a thriving belly cargo business and on routes which have restrictions on frequency.
Kenya Airways has been hit by numerous delays by its chief supplier Boeing over the delivery of nine Dreamliners into its stable. This has slowed down the pace at which it has been able to open up new routes as well as increase the frequency on some of its key commercial routes.
In April, the two 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.
In the meantime, the airline has signed a deal with Embraer to provide it with narrow-bodied aircrafts that will include the supply of 10 jets and the option for KQ to purchase an additional 16 to grow its African routes.
Naikuni also expects the two Boeing 777-300s to boost the airlines cargo capacity into those routes.
“We are bringing in a Boeing 747 freighter in the next two weeks that will have a capacity of about 110 tonnes for our long haul routes. We are also looking at getting two Boeing 737s that will be used to ply the routes within Africa,” he said.
KQ is in the process of introducing a rights issue, as it seeks to raise funds to finance its expansion program.
Details on the rights issue however remain sketchy as to how much it is seeking to raise and when, as it awaits shareholder approval.