Kenya Airways has completed 594 flights to and from New York since the launch of inaugural flight on October 28 last year.
Speaking during a one-year anniversary celebration in New York, KQ chairman Michael Joseph said at least 105,084 passengers have been flown on the route in the past one year.
During the launch, the Kenyan carrier known internationally as KQ deployed a Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet with a capacity of 234 seats for their daily flight to New York.
For 594 flights made in the year, KQ could have ferried a full 138,998 passengers on full capacity. This means the airline managed 75 per cent capacity since launch.
“Currently as we speak all our business class is fully booked on a daily basis and the economy is currently between 65 and 85 percent full daily,” Joseph said.
KQ which had aimed a daily flight on the route but this was cut a few weeks later to five days a week, citing low demand during the winter season.
It, however, resumed daily flight in June on the Summer holiday peak especially for American tourists visiting East Africa.
“Beginning June, Kenya Airways will increase its frequency to New York from five days a week to seven days a week. This is expected to open more opportunities for travelers to take advantage of this route during this high season,” KQ said in a statement.
The non-stop flight to the US was billed as a key in Kenya’s quest to boost the arrival of American tourists as well as deepen commercial activity between the two countries that have been trading partners since Kenya’s independence in 1963.
KQ had hoped to ride on high tourist numbers from the US to increase its revenues by 10 per cent.
At least 225,157 American tourists visited Kenya last year, accounting for 11.12 per cent of Kenya’s tourism market share. Tanzania came second to control 10.48 per cent of total tourists to Kenya.
According to Joseph, a codeshare with Delta, all their passengers can fly from Nairobi to all the destinations without changing flights but they are seeking to expand the same by next year.
KQ’s Nairobi New York Route serves 34 Africa destinations with Nigeria leading at 16.3 per cent of connecting Africa traffic with 1753 passengers.
South Africa is second at 15 per cent with 1613 passengers followed by Uganda at 14.7 per cent with 1581 passengers.
Tanzania has 11 per cent of the connecting traffic with 1259 passengers while Congo has eight per cent traffic with 856 passengers.
His sentiments were echoed by CEO Sebastian Mikosz who said the passenger traffic has been of great impact to the tourism sector.
Mikosz said with such traffic, it is only wise for KQ to enter into such partnerships with Safarilink to maximise on the opportunities.
“This is really satisfying bearing in mind it is only 8 months after our inaugural flight. The traffic is picking up and so far has a great impact on tourism,” he said.
Chief Administrative Secretary Foreign Affairs Ababu Namwamba said the route has seen Kenyan products get direct access in the New York market.
He said, for instance, KQ having been allocated a slot at the JKF International Airport, has opened up a ready market for cut flowers.
The same reason we are saying KQ is our national emblem and must be kept competitive. The government must do all it takes to ensure the airline is relevant to the market and can devise creative promotions that can sale,” he said.
In the celebrations, the national carrier entered a one-way codesharing agreement with Safarilink Aviation to open up Kenya touring sites and tap more to global travellers into the national carrier.
The agreement will have KQ include 18 remote Safarilink destinations in Kenya and Tanzania, in their global sales and distribution network.
The agreement also intends to combine the national carrier’s travel experience between respective international destinations and Safarilink’s direct flights to safari and unique beach destinations.
“This partnership will also allow tour operators and travel agencies to create unique holiday packages connecting from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Wilson Airport and eventually to their respective safari destinations, which is a great convenience to them,” KQ chief executive officer Sebastian Mikosz said.
“Sales will start in the course of the coming weeks before November 30, 2019,” KQ said in a statement.
KQ will place its codeshare flight numbers on the Safarilink flights so that customers from international destinations can book their full safari experience directly via KQ holidays or tour operators and travel agents.
It will provide daily scheduled flights that will provide convenient access to the eleven airstrips in Maasai Mara and direct flights to Amboseli, Samburu, Lamu, Zanzibar, Ukunda, Vipingo, Kilimanjaro, Tsavo, Lodwar, Kitale, Lake Naivasha, Laikipia, Lewa downs, Olpajeta, Loisaba, Nanyuki and, Mt. Kenya, avoiding road transport.
Safarilink CEO Alex Avedi said the partnership will provide a seamless connection of passengers from the KQ network straight into Kenya and Tanzania’s world-famous parks.
“We are very pleased to be entering into this significant partnership. We are delighted that KQ chose us on account of our commitment to safety and quality,” Avedi said.