Kenya Airways to dominate African Airspace?

KENYA AIRWAYS is headed for dominance of the African airspace as other African airlines collapse like dominoes. Kenya Airways is one of the two African airlines that are growing. At the current rate of expansion KQ will dominate the Africa airspace in under 10 years. 
KQ:Could dominate Africa in under 10 years

The only other strong airline in Sub Saharan Africa is Ethiopian Airlines. Therefore the contest for the dominance of the African airspace is between KQ and ET.

The South African Airways, which we had listed as among the major competitors in an earlier story is flying through a rough patch and therefore not ready for a fight. See

 The airline has been on life support for close to a decade now and soon the government there will have to face the sad reality that the airline business model is unsustainable. The airline has suffered a high turnover of CEOs in the last decade- running to almost 20. In the last six months is has changed four CEOs. Consequently, SAA is no longer a factor in the African aviation industry. Read

Apart from South African Airways, other airlines that have collapsed in the Southern Africa region include; Air Zimbabwe; Air Malawi, Zambian Airlines  and now with SAA in trouble, Kenya Airways is the only airline that can fill the gap. The airline has just be en allowed to fly to Malawi’s commercial city Blantyre in addition to the Capital Lilongwe. Kenya Airways has also been authorised to fly to Zambia’s Livingstone city in addition to the capital Lusaka.

And it is equipped for the job. With a US$150Million war chest, the airline is buying aircraft for cash. So far it has inflated its fleet by 11 Brazilian Made Embraer E-90 and expects to have reached 20 by first half of this year. The aircraft is said to be suitable for short haul routes especially in Africa. Kenya Airways is gunning for domination of the African Market which is the airline’s lifeline. With Markets in the West collapsing due to the economic crises in the West, Africa is the only growing aviation market. The hard times especially in Eurozone have seen tourist numbers decline occasioning Kenya Airways, the first loss in more than 10 years.

In addition to the Embraers, Kenya Airways has also ordered for 9 B787 dream liners. Indeed, in its 10 current year- development plan to 2021, the airline plans to raise its fleet to 119 aircraft  and expand its destinations to 110 from the current 50.Of Kenya Airways' 57 Destinations world wide, 47 are in Africa and still counting. ET on the other hand flies to 43 destinations in Africa.
Kenya Airways is the only successful privatised airline in Africa- and perhaps in the world. It is the youngest airline in Africa being only 36 years old but it is a major player in African aviation industry. It is owned 26 per cent by Air-France-KLM, 22 per cent by the Kenya Government and the rest by private investors. It competes for domination of the African skies with Ethiopian Airlines (ET) and South African Airways, SAA. Both SAA and ET are the oldest airlines in Africa. In fact SAA is among the oldest airlines in the world being 77 years old. .ET is 65. But Kenya Airways will have to be wary of Ethiopian airlines, its Northern neighbour.
ET:An equally aggressive and rapidly growing airline 

ET is the second largest airline in Africa boasting of 48 aircraft but could soon be neck-on-neck with SAA for she has a firm order of another 35 aircraft.  This would raise ET’s fleet to 83 in the next decade or so. Hot on the heels and even the most dramatic expansion is KQ’s who plans to increase its fleet from 34 to 107 in ten years. This means that KQ, as Kenya Airways in known, will be competing neck-and neck with ET on fleet expansion.(see

 SAA boasts of 53 long haul passenger aircraft including 21 B737-800, 6 A340-300, 9 A340-600, 11 A319-100 and 6 A340-200.The Ethiopian boasts of;:5 B777-200LR;11 B767-300ER,& B757-200ER;5 B737-700 and 6B737-800ER. She also owns six are cargo freighters and another eight   Short Range aircraft meant for domestic and short range aircraft. Effectively then the Ethiopian has just about 34 long range passenger aircraft. However, she has another 35 aircraft on order including including10 ultra modern Boeing 777-800 Dream liners and other top of the range long range aircraft from both Airbus and Boeing.

Kenya Airways for its part boasts of: 4 B777-200ER; 6 B767-300ER; 5 B737-800; 4 B737-700; 6 B737-300; 5 Embraer 170 and 4 Embraer 190. The Embraers are short range while the Boeings are long haul aircraft. The airline has placed a firm order for 6 ultra-modern B787-800DL. It is not clear whether they form part of the 79 strong arsenal or they are a separate kit.


Apart from hardware advantages, physical location could also play a major role on determining who has the largest pie. Kenya Airways’ home base is Jomo Kenyatta international Airport in NairobiNairobi is a natural hub of the continent being located, as it were, in the middle of the continent.  Its location makes connections to and from other destinations in Africa convenient. It also makes connections from Africa to the rest of the world seamless. That location could be KQ’s selling point.

The Airport itself is undergoing massive expansion which includes the construction of a green field terminal that will raise its capacity to 20 million passengers. 

The Greenfield terminal to be developed in two phases will expand JKIA’s capacity by 12 million passengers to more than 20 million passengers a year in Phase I. It will have a parking capacity, including “remote parking” for 60 aircraft bringing the total number of available parking slots over hundred aircraft. 
This could give a larger Kenya Airways advantage over the competition.  The future for African Airspace is headed for interesting times. Will Kenya Airways dominate? Let’s keep watching this space. But the aviation industry in Africa will never be the same again.


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