Jens Flottau/NAIROBI

Kenya Airways is preparing to undertake a long-haul fleet-renewal programme. The carrier has issued requests for proposals to Airbus and Boeing and to leasing companies. A decision on the new long-haul fleet could be made as early as January.

Although the airline's new chairman Richard Nyaga has declined to name the aircraft being considered, the 250-seat Airbus A330-200 and Boeing 767-300ER widebodies are believed to be the prime candidates. The carrier is thought to be planning to acquire aircraft on lease in the short term, before deciding on a purchase.

Kenya Airways' long-haul services are operated by four 10-13- year-old Airbus A310-300s, due to be replaced in 2002. The airline is seeking a single widebody type suitable to operate long-haul routes such as Nairobi to London, and regional flights to points such as Johannesburg, Dubai and Lagos.

Netherlands flag carrier KLM, Kenya Airways' alliance partner and part owner, is a major 767-300ER operator, with 11 aircraft, plus one on order, all leased from International Lease Finance. The airline operates the twinjet on its Nairobi-Amsterdam services.

KLM says the 767 suffers payload restrictions under certain conditions. Nairobi has an airfield elevation of around 5,250ft (1,600m), but a KLM source suggests that the two airlines might decide to undertake a joint acquisition of the type, with KLM planning to acquire two more aircraft for its own fleet.

Once the long-haul fleet strategy is established, Nyaga says the airline will turn its attention to replacing its domestic fleet in three or four years' time. Four Boeing 737-300s and two ageing 737-200s are operated.

KLM and Kenya Airways have started to build a regional hub at Nairobi, with both airlines flying daily Amsterdam-Nairobi services. The two carriers have integrated their African sales and marketing organisations and Nyaga says the African carrier is close to finalising codesharing agreements with Air Afrique and Air Zimbabwe.

Kenya Airways traffic increased by 30% in its financial year 1998/9, with 1.04 million passengers being carried. The airline's turnover was 13.22 billion Kenyan shillings ($175 million), and the carrier made a pre-tax profit of 1.42 billion Kenyan shillings.

Source: Flight International