NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 14 – Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is set to make its first passenger landing in East Africa with daily flights to Nairobi from April 1.
Etihad’s daily passenger service from Abu Dhabi to Nairobi will touch down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) on Sunday, April 1 this year, operated by two class A320 aircraft with 16 Pearl Business class and 120 Coral Economy seats, the airline announced on Tuesday.
Etihad Airways Chief Executive Officer James Hogan noted that Nairobi now becomes the 72nd destination in Etihad’s global network and the return flights will create a new link between the two capital cities of Kenya and the United Arab Emirates.
Since March 2009, Etihad has been operating dedicated cargo services to Nairobi, and now operates five freighter flights with a total capacity of 340 tonnes each week. With the launch of the passenger services in April, Etihad’s cargo carrying capacity to and from Nairobi will increase by five percent.
“This new route will allow Etihad to tap into large traffic flows between East Africa, North Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent,” Hogan said.
“Nairobi is an ideal addition to Etihad’s global footprint. There are 38,000 Kenyan nationals residing in the UAE and there are large and established point-to-point traffic flows between the two countries.”
Beyond Kenya, Hogan disclosed that Etihad’s strategy is to target areas of strong growth in emerging economies such as East, North, and Central Africa with other destinations under active consideration.
“Also, Abu Dhabi and Kenya have much in common economically. Both have 2030 plans in which tourism plays a vital role and the UAE is one of the largest exporters to the country,” Hogan noted.
In 2010 more than two million tourists visited Kenya, including some 295,000 from the Middle East. This new route will also service the considerable and growing flow of people and capital between Kenya and North Asia, with major Chinese investment in Africa generating passenger demand in both directions.
While welcoming Etihad’s passenger services foray into East Africa, Kenya Airports Authority Managing Director Stephen Gichuki reiterated that expansion and upgrade works at JKIA including the construction of a new terminal now are currently underway.
“Kenya Airports Authority has enjoyed a good relationship with Etihad Airways throughout its three years of operations to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, and I would like to congratulate the airline on the positive growth of its operations to Nairobi. We are confident Etihad will continue to prosper serving this route,” Gichuki said.
Etihad Airways has ordered 100 new aircraft and 105 options and purchase rights at the 2008 Farnborough Air Show. This gives flexibility in its network growth, enabling it to meet passenger demand over the next 10 years. To date, Etihad Airways has raised US$5 billion in external fleet financing, through a portfolio of 41 different financial institutions.