Kenya Airways to use E-Jets to exploit opening skies

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Kenya Airways is planning to use the additional Embraer 190s for which it has just struck a preliminary deal to add frequencies to existing routes as African markets further open up.

Embraer announced the SkyTeam carrier had reached a preliminary deal for 10 more E-190s, and options on another 10, during last month's Paris air show. The airline already operates five E-190s and a pair of E-170s and has a further three on order.

"We are trying to do more frequencies as airspace opens up," explained Kenya Airways chief executive Titus Naikuni during the Embraer-organised Connectivity in Africa conference, noting the smaller capacity of the regional jets mean it can operates additional frequencies efficiently.

"Our intention is to have the E-jets go into the market and give us higher frequencies and get the larger aircraft onto routes into Europe and Asia."

While the pace of liberalisation has been slow in Africa, Naikuni believes progress has been made and will continue. He said looking back eight years, when he joined the carrier, the airline had limited access to states like Rwanda and Uganda.

"Now, out of the blue, the governments say they are open," he said, noting for example it now flies three times daily to Rwanda.

"West Africa is not a problem. East Africa is still very protected, but it is slowly opening up and people are starting to understand the economic benefits of opening up," he added.

"It is coming and I am very confident. I think there will be change. If you look at the political landscape, if you look at the change in leadership, it is coming."