Three east African countries have refused to allow flights of national carrier Kenya Airways’ (KQ) small bombardier planes into their countries in what could raise diplomatic tensions with Nairobi.
Burundi declined the Bombardier DHC8-Q400 aircraft on the basis that they had no business class seats while Djibouti and Southern Sudan flatly declined KQ’s applications.
The Bombadier planes are less costly to operate, hence preferred on short-haul flights.
KQ chief executive officer Sebastian Mikosz Thursday told Kenyan Parliament the rejection is “politically motivated” and has hampered the national carrier’s regional expansion plans.
“So while we have an aircraft that is much cheaper to operate and is a very decent aircraft that UK and US carriers are operating and we want to expand, we find political decisions not allowing us to operate those aircraft,” he said.
KQ recently acquired the aircraft to fly to nearby countries as it seeks to grow and keep its market share in the African aviation market.
Early this month Jambojet announced that it had leased two new Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 aircraft from global aviation company Chorus Aviation Capital for deployment on local routes.
The new aircraft scheduled to be delivered and enter service in the second half of 2019 will be joining the Jambojet fleet, which currently comprises five Bombardier Q-series.
Jambojet made a plea to the Burundi authorities for approvals to enable it fly but got no response.
Mr Mikosz told the National Assembly’s Transport Committee a similar application to Dar es Salaam had not received a response.
“The most fundamental challenge KQ is facing is danger of losing its position in the African airline market,” he said.
He said the airline’s saving grace lies in it creating a system that will allow KQ to compete with Ethiopian Airways, Qatar Airways and RwandAir.
KQ and the Kenya Airports Authority are negotiating a joint venture strategy expected to place the airline on a near-equal footing with major competitors flying in and out of Nairobi.