Kenya Airways is in a drive to increase profits after posting significant losses. This comes amid heightened competition in Africa, as Kenya Airways seeks to engage Ethiopian Airlines in a battle for African dominance. Now, as part of a turnaround strategy, Kenya Airways seems to be looking into doubling their fleet by 2024.
Fleet Expansion Plans
Reuters reports that Kenya Airways wants to acquire nearly 40 additional planes to open up new routes in a drive to return to profitability. With 41 aircraft in service, Kenya Airways is much smaller than its major rival Ethiopian whose fleet numbers over 100 aircraft.
Recently, in an effort to build up a global network, Kenya Airways launched flights to New York. There, they partner on select codeshare flights with Delta Air Lines, allowing passengers easy connections.
Ultimately, Kenya Airways is looking to fly tourists and business passengers alike to Kenya (just leave the plastic at home!). It seems they believe they can do this by operating additional routes to more destinations. This news comes after their CEO announced his resignation indicating, perhaps, a new direction for the airline.
Kenya Airways fleet
Kenya Airways only operates 41 aircraft. These include Boeing 737s, Boeing 787s, and Embraer E190 aircraft. In addition, Kenya Airways has 777s leased out to Turkish Airlines, however the East African reports that Kenya Airways is losing a lot of money on these leases. On the other hand, it is likely that Kenya Airways would lose more money operating the 777s compared to leasing them out.
For long-hauls, Kenya Airways prefers the 787. The 787 flies routes to Europe and their flagship Nairobi to New York-JFK route. Although this route hasn’t been a great performer for Kenya Airways, they still are operating it with plans to run daily flights during the peak summer season too.
For more regional routes, Kenya Airways flies the E190. These regional jets have a good range and service a variety of destinations. For example, Kenya Airways puts these aircraft on some four-hour flights to Mauritius.
Should Kenya Airways double their fleet, they have a few different options. Amid the worldwide grounding of the 737 MAX, Kenya Airways could negotiate for 737 MAX aircraft at a bargain price. This would create some fleet similarity and, with additional pilot training, keep costs lower for Kenya Airways. In addition, down the line, the 737 MAX could be an ideal replacement for the 737s Kenya Airways already flies.
If Kenya Airways seeks to focus on regional jets, the Embraer E2 series may be of interest to them. These jets are versatile and can fly many of Kenya Airways’ new short- and medium-haul routes on which the carrier simply cannot fill a much larger 737.
And then, Kenya Airways could seek to acquire additional 787s for long-haul services. If New York works out for the airline, perhaps other far-reaching destinations may be on the table. That being said, if Kenya Airways is simply searching for routes to operate based on nationalistic pride and government interests, then they likely will have difficulty turning a profit.
This is an interesting strategy. On one hand, it makes sense that Kenya Airways wants to build up a global route network. On the other, doubling their fleet is a costly and risky way to do so. However, if Kenya Airways can acquire aircraft for lower prices and open new routes with less of a financial risk to them, then it is likely consumers will have more choices as Africa’s aviation market presses ahead. However, if Kenya Airways leaves Skyteam, they’ll have to go the extra mile to build codeshares and get passengers to fly with them.
By Jay Singh