NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 25 – National Carrier Kenya Airways plans to convert four of its Boeing B737-300 passenger jets into freighters, as it ramps up its cargo unit to meet surging cargo transportation demand across Africa and beyond.
The first two of these aircraft are expected to undergo freighter modification by Aeronautical Engineers Inc. (AEI) at its authorised conversion center, Boeing Shanghai Aircraft Services, in Shanghai China.
Kenya Airways Chief Operating Officer Mbuvi Ngunze said the conversion of the Boeing 737 -300 freighters was a cost effective means of boosting efficiency and reliability in the firm’s cargo unit and would translate into a significant enhancement of the firm’s revenue stream.
“We are using our own equipment with minimal additional investment making it cost effective; and since we already know the aircraft, minimal additional training is required to operate the aircraft,” he explained.
The aircraft registered as KQC will be the first of the two aircrafts that will be converted and is expected to go out of service by the end of this month for the conversion which is estimated to take about three months.
The aircraft is expected back into service as a freighter in February next year, after which the second Boeing 737-300 aircraft will go out of service and is expected back from the conversion center as a freighter in June 2013.
The converted freighters will operate in Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa including Juba, Luanda, Bangui, Douala, Yaoundé, Kigali, Entebbe, Dar-es-Salaam, Kinshasa and Bujumbura amongst others.
The regional freighter will allow KQ Cargo to capitalise on full cargo potential on routes that are currently served by the single aisle passenger jets that includes the Embraers and Boeing 737 family.
The freighter capacity would also accommodate excess baggage overspill complementing trader traffic especially in Central and West Africa.
Ngunze said that the converted freighters will add value to the firm’s cargo business by expanding flows from China to other Africa points.
At the moment, the Boeing 747 Safari Connection freighter operated by Kenya Airways, KLM and Martin Air from Guangzhou China, has been mainly focusing on West Africa-bound flows.