Kenya Airways (KQ), the perceived Pride of Africa, has been the talk of the town/country in the past few days, for its newly launched direct flights to New York, USA.
Today, the return flight landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) from the John F Kennedy Airport (JFKA) in New York.
Everyone is showering praise to the new development, but has anyone paused to think how the cash strapped KQ will manage the trips?
Save for helping find some positive news to cheer the country, that flight makes zero commercial sense.
First, lets take the fuel aspect. For a one way flight, the dream liner requires at least 85 tonnes (85,000kgs) of fuel. Coverted into litres of fuel, it is approximately 107,000 litres which can cost up to Ksh8.3 million. Due to weigh considerations, the plane cannot be used to export Kenya’s leading cash crops like flowers, coffee, tea and avocados.
One way flight makes around Ksh23 million which goes back to the operations of the flight, leaving very little for profits. It is worth noting that KQ does not enjoy any fuel subsidy unlike other flights going for long haul flights. This means that within a very short time, the national carrier might be forced to abandon the route.
Also, ultra long hauls only make money on the second sector. Experts in the aviation industry explain the second sector as other carriers who bring passengers to the long haul carrier, mostly from neighbouring countries.
“The guy who will fly from Zambia or Uganda to connect in JKIA to NYC to then connect on JetBlue to Los Angeles, is the one who the airline wants, he has what we call good yield, unlike Ken from Nakuru who is only taking an Uber to JKIA to fly to NYC and back to Nairobi. At the moment KQ is attracting passengers terminating in NYC and coming from Nairobi. Those pass a low yield and won’t make the route money,” says a KQ insider.
What most people do not know is that KQ made a whooping Ksh4 billion loss in the half year ended June, and Ksh5.6 billion the year before.
The management did not explain where planes being used for US direct flights were before. Were they bought? Were they leased?
In case they have been leased, it means the small profit being made from the flights might go out to unknown cartels in the industry. The national carrier will therefore be making zero profit, and the flight might be of zero impact to Kenyans.
Soon, the KQ CEO Sebastian Mikosz might realise this and bolt out before things go south. He will be one of the biggest beneficiary of the initiative. To him, he will have steered a loss-making carrier to direct flights to US, and with that in his CV it is more likely that he will get a job elsewhere.
The cartels have started using PR stunts to cheer on KQ. Today, reports were released that more than 100,000 US citizens will visit Kenya by the end of this year, courtesy of the direct flight. This is a broad daylight lie.
The Dreamliner carries at most 234 passengers in one trip. With three trips every week for the remaining part of the year, the plane will carry close to 7,000 passengers from US.
For a whole year, the flight will ferry 36,000 passengers from US. This means that for the 100,000 US citizens to visit the country, they will use other carriers which will not be of benefit to KQ.
The numbers are just meant to hoodwink the public. The media has also been entrapped into the theoretical success, and none is raising a question about it.
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