A year on from its successful privatisation, Kenya Airways plans to launch the first phase in the development of Nairobi Airport as a hub. Managing director Brian Davies reveals that the airline has ordered a third new Boeing 737-300 and will reconsider its long-haul fleet structure.

Davies says that from April the airline will begin direct daily services between Nairobi and Amsterdam, linking into the network of Dutch partner KLM, which took a 26%stake in the Kenyan airline in its run-up to privatisation.

Kenya Airways already provides services from Nairobi to neighbouring African destinations in Malawi (Lilongwe), Tanzania (Dar e Salaam), Uganda (Entebbe) and Zambia (Lusaka). The aim is to turn these services, which now range from four to seven times a week, into daily connecting flights.

The second phase will be to link into the wider KLM network from Amsterdam, including alliance partners Northwest Airlines, across the Atlantic. Talks are already taking place with Air UK and are scheduled to begin shortly with Eurowings about feeder services within Europe.

At London Heathrow, where Kenya Airways is now the only provider of daily scheduled services to Nairobi, the airline will move alongside KLM in Terminal 4.

Stops at Frankfurt and Zurich have ended, although services still operate via Copenhagen, Paris and Rome, largely for tourist traffic.

The changes are being backed by the acquisition of two new 737-300s, due to arrive in March and May, to replace two 737-200s on lease from GPA. The airline also holds another two options, one of which has already been exercised for delivery in May 1998. Davies says that the deal, backed by the USExim bank, includes the best terms ever offered to an African airline.

The carrier had attempted to renew leases on the 737-200s and use them to replace its three Fokker 50 turboprops on domestic routes, but Davies says that a deal could not be concluded with GPA. He adds that the airline will reconsider replacing the Fokker 50s within the next year or so.

The more pressing issue is replacement of Kenya's long-haul fleet of three Airbus A310s, one of which is leased from International Lease Finance. Davies says that a competition for their replacement is likely within six months.

Source: Flight International