Kenya Airways says the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), which was signed early this year, will take longer to implement as airlines need more time to prepare for the lengthy operational and regulatory changes involved.
KQ chief operating officer Jan De Vegt said the implementation of the open skies agreement should not be rushed as airlines need to adjust to changes brought in by the agreement.
Kenya is among the signatories of the Open Skies agreement signed at the Africab Union summit in Addis Ababa in January, which aims to enhance connectivity, facilitate trade and tourism and create employment.
“Open Skies is a process that has been ongoing in the US and Europe for the past 100 years. You can’t push us to do it in five years,” Mr Vegt said at Sir Sewoosagur Ramgoolam Airport International Airtport in Mauritius, shortly after the inaugural KQ non-stop flight landed there.
“The Nairobi-Mauritius route will also have great impact on our upcoming non-stop flights to New York by reinforcing its attractiveness to American leisure travellers,” Mr Vegt said.
The arrival of the flight on Thursday evening marked the start of the airline’s direct flights to the island nation, which were announced in February.
It is about 39 years since the airline stopped flying there.
The four-times weekly flight becomes KQ’s 53rd destination, and brings to seven the airline’s daily flights to Mauritius. It is expected to boost air traffic and increase tourism numbers between the two countries.
“This is part of our strategic intent to expand our footprint across Africa. The investment and trade opportunities presented by this direct flight will certainly add value to both countries.
“We expect to grow tourism for both countries as we strive to offer our passengers affordable and improved connections from the Nairobi and Mauritius hubs,” Mr De Vegt said.
Kenya Airways already has an existing code-share agreement with Air Mauritius for weekly flights.
Mauritius Tourism Minister Joel Gentil said the agreement would help the island nation to attract more tourists from the continent and beyond by leveraging on the partnership that gives KQ and Air Mauritius a total of 104 destinations worldwide.