Kenya Airways is looking to acquire narrowbody aircraft as it pushes forward with an aggressive intra-African expansion drive.

During 2007 and 2008 Kenya Airways pursued a prudent growth strategy, expanding by only one destination. But chief operating officer Bram Steller says this period of consolidation has come to an end as the airline seeks to develop Nairobi's status as an African hub.

"We have decided to restart our growth with one focus, Africa," Steller told Air Transport Intelligence during the annual general assembly of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), held last week in Maputo, Mozambique. "We want to be the single truly pan-African carrier. In seven months, we have grown by seven destinations. This is an ideal time not to grow long-haul, where competition is fiercest, and instead spread our wings more over Africa."

The airline intends to continue to add one destination per month "at least until the end of our financial year in March".

"We're growing capacity on existing routes by using larger aircraft, stepping up frequencies and adding 'twin brother' destinations," says Steller. "That way we can grow without losing our shirt."

To support expansion, the airline is looking to add "a small number" of narrowbodies, adds Steller. Kenya Airways has a mixed narrowbody fleet, comprising three Embraer 170s, four Boeing 737-300s, four 737-700s and five 737-800s, and Steller says the additional aircraft could be of any one of these types.

Rather than place a new aircraft order with a manufacturer, the airline intends to explore availability of 'white tail' aircraft for lease or purchase.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news