Kenyan start-up African Express Airlines (AEA) has begun to bite into Kenya Airways' domestic market, and has taken its first step into international services with a flight to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Nairobi-based carrier began scheduled operations two months ago, after winning licences to fly Nairobi-Mombasa. AEA has started the first scheduled service from Mombasa to the Middle East, with a weekly flight to the UAE. The service, operated by a Boeing 727-200, routes via Oman's capital, Muscat, to the UAE city of Sharjah, next to Dubai.

AEA's domestic route between Nairobi and Mombasa, until now the preserve of Kenya Airways, has been regarded as a high-yield operation, but AEA broke tradition when it introduced special low fares for Kenyan citizens only. Its fare is $60 one way or $123 return, compared to Kenya Airways' fares of $100 one way and $195 return. The airline expects to introduce similar special fares to Ugandan and Tanzanian citizens travelling between Nairobi and Mombasa.

Kenya Airways admits that AEA "has minimally eaten" into its market, but adds: "AEA fares are just slightly higher than those on the railways, but we doubt if they are sustainable."

AEA, which operates a diverse fleet, including Fokker F28s, Boeing 707s and 727s and Yakovlev Yak-40s, has also been licensed to operate to other Kenyan cities, and plans to increase frequencies between Nairobi and Mombasa.

Source: Flight International