Services from Kenya to Europe have obtained a double boost, with the launch of flights from Nairobi to Paris and Rome by East African Safari Air and the lifting of a UK government ban imposed in May on flights by its airlines to Kenya after terrorist fears.

After a feasibility study in conjunction with Lufthansa Consulting, East African decided to launch service to European destinations without direct links from major carriers, says Anthony Kegode, chief executive of the privately owned Kenyan airline. Currently, most travellers from southern Europe have to fly north to connect via Amsterdam or London to reach Nairobi, he says.

Although East African does not expect loads to be as high as its original projections, because of the Iraq war and terrorism threats in Kenya, the carrier did not want to postpone its start-up, says Kegode. It began twice-weekly service to Rome and Paris via Mombasa on 2 July with a Boeing 767-300 leased from ILFC. The service builds on East African's international charter operations and its regional scheduled flights

The airline is discussing interline deals with several carriers in Italy and France, as well as in Africa, and may increase frequencies during the winter if demand is healthy, says Kegode.

Kenya Airways has in the past operated direct flights to Kenya from southern Europe, but now operates direct flights from London Heathrow to Nairobi, and hubs through Amsterdam in partnership with KLM for its continental European services. This will not change with the launch of East African, but it will "watch their success or otherwise very carefully", says David Granville, the carrier's head of UK sales.

Although it did not cut any of its flights from the UK, Kenya Airways saw its traffic to and from the country fall by "double-digit" amounts following the UK government action in mid-May, says Granville. However, it is still targeting 20%traffic growth on its UK routes this year. British Airways has resumed its daily Nairobi service following the lifting of the UK travel ban at the end of June.

In other news, Kenya Airways has said it will begin a three-times-weekly 767-300 service from Nairobi to Bangkok and Hong Kong on 3 September. The route was due to start up in June, but was delayed because of SARS.

Source: Airline Business