National carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) has resumed direct flights to the United States effective Sunday ending a near-11-month hiatus.
The carrier had suspended its passenger flights to the John F Kennedy airport in New York City on March 27 keeping only cargo and special repatriations flights following the Covid-19 emergence.
KQ Chief Executive Officer Allan Kilavuka says the return of the flights will serve to boost the carrier’s efforts to rebuild its global network following the return of international flights on August 1.
“The New York-Nairobi route is key toward rebuilding and reconnecting our global network as we see great signs of optimism in the recovery of air travel since we resumed flights in July. This optimism is also driven by the easing of restrictions for both transit and inbound passengers in Kenya as well as the robust health and safety measures that are in place to protect them and our staff,” he said.
Earlier on at the end of October, KQ held back against an early return to operations on the route as it suffered reduced passenger traffic demand whose occurrence was adjacent to the US November 3 presidential elections.
The resumption of the flight is however expected to return with very little fun-fair as KQ’s management warns of another 12 months of turbulence as the overall demand for passenger traffic remains low.
KQ has had to make do with increased cargo flights including the recent launch of direct cargo operations between Moi Airport in Mombasa and the United Arab Emirates to cover the revenue shortfall.
“The demand for air travel is still at a fraction of the 2019 numbers and it is projected to stay supressed for at least the next 12 months. As a result, revenues for the Airline have been low and will significantly impact earnings for the year,” said KQ Chairman Michael Joseph in a statement to shareholders on Friday.
In August, the airline reported a near doubling of half year losses to Sh14.3 billion from Sh8.6 billion in 2019.
This on the back of falling passenger revenues particularly in the second quarter which run up to rigid and higher operating costs with KQ having to honour fixed charges such fuel cost hedging and leasing charges.