Despite Kenya Airways (KQ) announcing resumption of daily direct flights to US in June, it is evident that the national carrier cannot sustain the flights.
In fact, the airliner will not actually resume the flights, but will use American airliner, Delta Airlines, to advance the agenda, which means that a big chunk of profits will go the firm.
The two airlines announced that they had signed a code sharing deal, that would see the plan materialise. A code sharing deal is a commercial arrangement between two airlines, whereby one sells seats on a flight operated by the other. In this sense, Kenya Airways, owing to its limited financial ability, will be ‘selling’ its passengers to the American carrier.
“As part of our commitment to the New York route, we are proud to be a part of this partnership that will open up opportunities for our customers to access more destinations in North America through the John F. Kennedy Airport,” KQ CEO Sebastian Mikosz said.
Barely two weeks after launching the route, KQ reduced the number of its direct flights to new York, US, over low demand. Since then, the carrier has never resumed the flights as per the schedule, which was hit by several hiccups.
In two weeks of its inception, over 10 flights were cancelled for lack of passengers, with some flights carrying as low as 45 passengers in a dream-liner with a capacity of over 200 passengers.
The move seemed overambitious for the the cash strapped airliner that has been suffering losses in the past few years, with operational cost almost matching revenue incomes. At times, the operational cost is higher than the revenue income like the period between and including 2013 to 2015.
Last year, KQ reported a Ksh4 billion half-year losses.
Immediately after launch, Kahawa Tungu revealed the difficulties that would come with the route, where most clients are tourists would trust American carriers rather than KQ.
For instance, 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.
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.
Factoring all these in, the code sharing deal may be just a hidden plan to pull out from the US direct flights.
The carrier has also gone ahead to spread lies about statistics of the passengers ferried in the first two months of inception, putting the number at 28,000. This is not possible.
Having three trips a week to US cannot amount to this. One dream-liner can carry a maximum of 234 passengers. In a month, with 12 trips to US, the carrier would ferry only 2808 passengers, assuming it is full. In two months, this would be 5,616 or 11,236 for a return trip.
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.