Kenya Airways plans to resume Nairobi-New York direct flights in October as international travel resumes.
The national carrier will start with one flight a week with frequency increasing based on demand, Chairman Michael Joseph said.
“I think we will go once a week and then we will start to build. If we see the demand is up, we will go two times or three times a week. I don’t know when we will go back to daily flights to the US because of the pandemic,” Joseph said.
KQ, as it is known by its international code, started direct flights to the US in October 2018, cutting the journey to 15 hours.
As of October last year, it had completed 594 flights to and from New York , flying at least 105,084 passengers.
The airline had deployed a Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet with a capacity of 234 seats for daily flight to New York.
For 594 flights made in the year, KQ could have ferried about 138,998 passengers on full capacity. This means the airline managed 75 per cent capacity.
Lack of direct flights means US-bound passengers from Kenya have to change planes in Europe or the Gulf, a journey that can take up to 20 hours.
Kenya opened its skies for international flights on Saturday.
Kenya Airports Authority on Sunday morning received Lufthansa, British Airways and KLM flights for the first time since the reopening of Kenyan airspace to international flights.
Speaking during a reception ceremony for the flights at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Kenya Airport Authority (KAA) acting managing director Alex Gitari said the authority had lost 80 per cent of its business which comes from international passenger flights.
“Covid-19 Pandemic is undoubtedly a global crisis of unprecedented proportions; the enormous aftermath on the aviation industry has affected all airport users, workforce and the whole supply chain,” Gitari said.
He added that KAA regards the resumption of international flights as a significant milestone in the aviation industry which has been one of the hardest hit by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have not had international flights for 120 days, this resumption of international flights will also buoy the fortunes of KAA,” he said.
Airports Council International now estimates a reduction of more than 4.6 billion passengers in 2020.
The estimated decline in total airport revenues on a global scale is estimated to be more than $97 billion (Sh10.5 trillion) for 2020.
The country has a strict protocol for air travel operations to help contain the spread of the virus and ensure that the sector is opened up taking cognizance of the measures put in place by the Ministry of Health.