, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 26 – Kenya Airways (KQ) has announced plans to introduce direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai in China before the end of this year, as it expands its Asian operations.
The national carrier also plans to start daily direct flights to Guangzhou, China, which are currently thrice a week since November last year as it joins rival Ethiopian Airlines in tapping increasing demand in the Asia-Africa market.
Kenya Airways CEO Titus Naikuni says this will follow the arrival of eight new aircraft this year including six Boeing 787 Dreamliners and two Boeing 777-300.
The first Boeing 787 Dreamliner is due to arrive on April 4.
“The next lots of aircraft start arriving in July; so we have one aircraft every month until we get the last sixth one around October. Then we will have a break before we move on to next year when we will get the remaining three Dreamliners,” Naikuni said at a media briefing on Wednesday.
The Dreamliners will replace the current six Boeing 767-300s as Kenya Airways seeks to phase them out by the end of the year.
The first 787 Dreamliner will be used for training in April and May to help pilots and technical staff familiarise with the new aircraft. It will officially start its operations in June this year, with direct flights from Nairobi to Paris, in France.
The delivery of 787 Dreamliners has been delayed by more than three years as a result of production problems by Boeing Company, the manufacturer, over complex new technologies which include using composite materials to reduce weight.
“I know you will ask me whether we are now confident enough that we can operate the aircraft without issues. I would say we are about 98 to 99 percent confident and this confidence is built upon by visiting several operators who have had the aircraft before us,” Naikuni said with optimism.
This acquisition is part of Kenya Airways’ 10 year strategic plan dubbed ‘Project Mawingu’ in which the airline targets to increase its fleet size from the current 45 to 107 aircraft by 2021.