Africa

Kenya Airways makes historic nonstop US flight

(CNN) — Flights from Africa to across the globe are expanding more than ever thanks to more competition in the airline industry, with the latest milestone being the first direct flight from East Africa to the United States completed on Monday.

Passengers on Kenya Airways' Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner took the historic 15-hour flight from Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to New York.

The new flights will run daily from Kenya to John F. Kennedy International Airport, and the national carrier hopes they will help drive a rebound in profit.

"This is an exciting moment for us," Kenya Airways Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Sebastian Mikosz said in a statement. "It fits within our strategy to attract corporate and high-end tourism traffic from the world to Kenya and Africa."

Kenya earned $1.2 billion in 2017 from tourism, more than a 20% increase from $989 million the previous year, and the US is one of the country's biggest tourism markets.

"With infrastructure spending set to slow from past highs as Kenya embarks on fiscal consolidation, and with private-sector credit still weak, Kenya is in need of additional growth drivers," said Razia Khan, chief economist for Africa and the Middle East for Standard Chartered Bank.

TOPSHOT - A parked Boeing 787-8 passenger plane bearing the Kenya Airways livery is seen through a window advertising decal showing antilopes, on January 27, 2018 at the Jomo-Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.

TOPSHOT – A parked Boeing 787-8 passenger plane bearing the Kenya Airways livery is seen through a window advertising decal showing antilopes, on January 27, 2018 at the Jomo-Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.

SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images

"Direct flights to the US will provide a substantial boost to tourism, which has been growing strongly, providing a potential offset to other growth headwinds."

Kenya Airways, which is partly state-owned, estimates the New York route will boost revenue by 10% in 2019. Bookings already grew by 1,974 last week, the airline said.

Last year, the Kenyan government increased its stake in the company to 48.9% from 29.8% in a bid to cover losses.

The new route aims to keep the national carrier competitive against a number of African airlines that already provide direct flights to the US from the continent including Egypt Air and South African Airways.

The move is part of wider expansion plans by African airlines. Ethiopian Airlines launched new routes from Addis Ababa to Jakarta, Indonesia, Geneva, Switzerland, and Chicago this year, while Air Tanzania also announced new direct flights to Uganda and Burundi.

CNN

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