KQ inks aircraft lease deal with Congo Airways to grow reach
Kenya’s national carrier, Kenya Airways (KQ), has signed an aircraft lease agreement with Congo Airways to seal part of trade agreement that was signed between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Congolese counterpart Felix Tshisekedi in April this year.
The agreement will see Kenya Airways lease two Embraer E190 jets to Congo Airways, boosting domestic operations and flight frequencies in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as the airline begins direct cargo flights from Johannesburg to Lubumbashi.
KQ will also offer courses through its Pride Centre and explore the exchange of technical personnel in various areas to ensure skills transfer between the two airlines.
It is a partnership which strengthens and bolster aviation ties between Kenya and the DRC, actualising the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between KQ and Congo Airways.
KQ’s CEO Allan Kilavuka hailed the partnership as the first of many steps in actualising Pan Africanism by creating a model for cooperation between two African Airlines, which will contribute to Africa’s socio-economic development.
“KQ is a key player in the aviation space in Africa, and with over 40 years of experience, this is an important step in enhancing cooperation to increase air connectivity and offer greater passenger and cargo options between the two countries. The timing of this agreement is correct, considering the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation industry, as it will increase the utilisation of our aircraft,” said Kilavuka.
Speaking about the newly launched cargo direct flights between Johannesburg and Lubumbashi, he added, “Cargo has provided new opportunities in the face of the pandemic, and we are keen to continue building our operations and leveraging partnerships.
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The enhanced network is built around KQ’s southern Africa operations in Johannesburg and is expected to provide further connections to additional points within the DRC and Africa. This will provide customers with more convenient schedules and capacity at a time when the global industry has suffered capacity shortfall due to the pandemic as well as improve profitability of KQ’s regional freighters on the return sector from Johannesburg.”
Congo Airways’ CEO Pascal Kasongo Mwema Mwenda said, “Increased air connectivity will offer more choices to passengers in the DRC and between the two countries. It will also provide better connectivity to international destinations, enabling both countries to fly to a better future and build a resilient aviation industry that can stand the test of time.”
Kenya is seeking to leverage the DRC market by diversifying its export destinations, given the COVID-19 induced disruption, which has highlighted the need for deeper inter-regional trade.
Strengthened bilateral between the two countries will boost the National Carrier and Congo Airways passenger and cargo transport businesses between the two markets and the international network.
KQ currently operates an Embraer maintenance service centre – through its Technical Department – having flown the Embraer jets since 2008.
Its Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) has two state-of-the-art hangers, mechanical and avionics workshops, and extensive warehousing capable of handling line and base maintenance of several aircraft models, including B737s E-Jets, and B787.
The International Air Transport Associations (IATA) estimates that African airlines saw a combined loss of USD 2 billion due to reduced passenger travel in 2020.
Kenya Airways continues to diversify its services and operations in response to the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the aviation sector.
On September 13, KQ also resumed direct flights to India, bringing an end to a four-month suspension announced in April this year.
India, one of Kenya’s main trading partners, accounted for 102,600 passenger arrivals through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in 2019, and was the second-largest source of imports valued at Ksh.178.8 billion.
A large number of patients from Kenya also travel to India every year for specialised medical treatment, especially cancer care, helping to drive medical tourism in the densely populated country that boasts affordable and easily accessible healthcare.