By Titus Kakembo
A five minutes visit of Entebbe International Airport is a revelation of a raging war for the airspace between Kenya Airways (KQ ), Ethiopian Airlines, Air Uganda and the Gulf giants comprising Emirates, Qatar, Air Arabia and Fly Dubai, which enjoy unlimited market access from African governments.
“All of them offer state of the art fleets, and are big league players offering global connectivity via their hubs in Dubai, Doha and Abu Dha," Kenya Airways’ CEO Dr. Titus Naikuni was quoted at the IATA Convention in Cape Town last year.
"It is here that African airlines, need to examine areas where cooperation is possible or where competition is desirable as a way forward in order to stem the outflow of passengers to non-continental airlines and thereby dimming the prospects of our own leading airlines to eventually rise to similar levels in terms of fleet and destinations.”
True to Naikuni’s words the future has exciting times for KQ and Ethiopian Airlines serving the Africa continent.
It is giving pundits much to speculate over, regular aviation observers and journalists much to write home about.
For starters, come June 4, and Ethiopian Airlines will double their number of flights from Addis Ababa to Nairobi from two to four.
Then consumers will wait for response to the bold move from the continental rival - Kenya Airways.
Getting the hint two years ago, Kenya Airways, announced that by the end of 2015 they would want to connect from their own hub in Nairobi to every political and commercial capital across Africa, expand their network into Europe, the Gulf, to India, into the Far and South East.
Since the national carrier, Uganda Airlines closed down, Uganda can only be a spectator of the battle between the two giants.
The aviation industry is all eye at the pace of delivery of new aircraft, implementation of access to promised destinations, the linkage with a global airline alliance, the creation of partnership airlines in Africa and the currently restricted access by Kenya Airways to the North American market place due to a lack of Category 1 certification by the American FAA.
The onus is upon both the Kenyan government and the Kenya Airport Authority to put in place an aviation infrastructure which meets international aviation requirements.
Taking stock of what either party has in store is a revelation of sorts.
For instance, Ethiopian Airlines will this year have delivery of a 5 B787 Dreamliners.
This will make a total of six state of the art aero planes.
These will be in addition to two B777-300ER’s, of which they already operate two with a further six B777-200LR in the fleet.
Trapped in a stiff race, Kenya Airways, also expect delivery of one B777-300ER, making it two such aircraft besides their four B777-200ER, and five B787 Dreamliners.
Comparably, Kenya Airways operates a fleet of six B767-300ER’s.
Given the different fleet sizes of the two airlines, it is evident at this stage that Ethiopian Airlines operating 62 aircraft to 80 destinations as Kenya Airways competes with 45 aircrafts destined to 56 destinations.
On the destination battle front, Ethiopian Airlines launched flights to Shanghai, their 4th destination in China, while Kenya Airways will only be able to follow suit later in the year when they also intend to launch flights to Beijing, which then makes three destinations including Guangzhou.
Vienna will be added as another European destination for ET in a few weeks’ time, to be followed later in the year with planned flights to Tokyo, Los Angeles, Madrid, Manila and Jakarta, while Kenya Airways is restoring flights to Paris in June but not yet Rome which was dropped last year.