Direct flights to the United States will create about 150 jobs at Kenya Airways , the national carrier has announced, giving a glimpse of the economic benefits expected from the new route.
Kenya Airways on Thursday started booking passengers for the inaugural October 28 flight to the US, which will instantly cut by six hours flight time between New York and the Kenyan capital.
The flights are expected to further boost tourism and trade between the two countries.
On Thursday, Kenya Airways CEO Sebastian Mikosz said that the launch of direct flights is also expected to generate indirect jobs through its suppliers.
“First of all [the direct flight] is going to create more jobs in Kenya Airways because we will definitely hire more pilots and more crew. That is going to be in the range of 150 people, just on a rough basis,” said Mr Mikosz.
Each flight will be manned by a crew of four pilots and 12 flight attendants.
KQ, as the airline is also known, is charging a floor price of $869 for a return ticket on the direct flight.
Although this is not the cheapest way to travel between Kenya at the United States, it is the only non-stop connection between East Africa and the United States and the fastest.
A random survey of tickets for similarly-priced non-direct flights from Nairobi to New York reveals that most of them take an average 20-hours in the air each way, with stop-overs in the Middle East and Europe that can stretch a journey for up to two days.
Mr Mikosz expects that the direct flight to the United States will boost KQ revenues by at least 10 per cent in the 2019 financial year.
The company will put up 85,000 seats for sale on the route, and expects a load factor of between 75 and 80 per cent in the first year. After this, the American route ought to perform similarly to European routes where KQ records load factors of about 87 per cent.
Tourists and business travellers coming to Kenya and the larger East Africa region will fill up these seats.
Nairobi is a regional hub for many American multinationals and in 2016 the United States overtook the United Kingdom to become Kenya’s top source market for tourists.
95,771 tourists visited Kenya from the United States in the ten months to October 2017, according to data from the Kenya Tourism board (KTB).
“The US market has two core segments in which Kenya Airways is interested, corporate and premium leisure,” said Mr Mikosz.
Passenger numbers will be boosted further beginning 2019 when KQ expects to have signed its code-share agreement with Delta Airlines.