Kenya Airways’ first nonstop flight between New York City and Nairobi will serve as a gateway to eastern Africa, Kenya Airways Group Managing Director and CEO Sebastian Mikosz told Travel Agent at a recent media event.
The new flight, which is scheduled to kick off from JFK Airport on October 28, will make Kenya Airways the first airline to offer a nonstop flight between east Africa and the United States. It will also mark the airline’s entry into North America.
“Few people stay just in Kenya [when flying to Africa],” Mikosz tells Travel Agent, noting that trips that combine multiple countries are common. To help with those trips, Kenya Airways has arranged the new flight’s schedule to allow for connections to and from over 40 African destinations through the Nairobi hub.
The new flight will also serve a large, and growing, demand for travel to Kenya from the United States.
“It’s going to boost a market that already exists,” Mikosz says. The United States is one of Kenya’s top source markets, providing 10 percent of its international visitation. Tourism from the U.S. has been growing approximately 20 percent per year over the past few years, with forecasts calling for 100,000 U.S. visitors this year. The new flight, which will run daily, will add approximately 90,000 seats over 12 months.
The new flight will also significantly cut down travel time, Mikosz says, by as much as seven to 10 hours, depending on the route being compared. “It’s like gaining a full extra day,” he says. Since the flight is daily, it will also offer more flexibility for travelers, as well as tour operators looking to design packages.
Looking ahead, Mikosz says that closer to the launch of the flight, he’d like to bring tour operators and hoteliers from countries in eastern Africa to the United States, with the aim of connecting them with their U.S. counterparts and driving tourism to the entire region.
The new flight will be operated on Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners with a capacity of 234 passengers, 30 in Premium World (the airline’s business class) and 204 in Economy. Seats in business class will be completely lie-flat, while economy seats will have a 30” pitch. Further updates to the airline’s onboard product are planned to account for the longer flight time – at approximately 14 hours, it’s much longer than the average flight in markets Kenya Airways currently serves, which is around six hours. Details will be announced at a later date.