BY ANTONY MUTUNGA
A four century old relationship has been rekindled between Kenya and Oman after the latter’s national carrier, Oman Air, officially launched its four times weekly flight from Muscat to Nairobi in March. The company entered the market offering fair prices of $350 to Muscat and $485 to Guangzhou, making it a good time for travellers who are going to the regions.
The move is likely to strengthen political, social and economical ties between the two countries. This is vital to the relationship between the U.A.E and Kenya as it comes at a time when the Kenyan government focuses towards protectionism to try and save its national carrier, Kenya Airways (KQ).
In the move to protect the national carrier, the government cancelled the licenses of several airlines that looked to increase their frequency of flights. For example, Emirates airlines got their license withdrawn by the government. According to Irungu Nyakera, former Transport Ministry Principal Secretary. The withdrawal of the licenses was a way for the government to protect Nairobi for Kenya Airways because increasing the frequency of the other airlines was hurting the national carrier.
The Kenyan national carrier has not stopped there when it comes to its revival; it has gone on to reduce its long haul services and to rationalize its fleet through its current Operation Pride Restructuring. This has seen the carrier lease out two of its dream liners to Oman Air in a move to reduce their costs and maximize profits.
KQ has also been investing in codeshare agreements with several airlines to attract more customers. Codeshare agreement can be described as a commercial agreement between two airlines that gives passengers the ability to use a ticket from one airline to travel on another.
For example, the private company entered into a pact with its subsidiary, Jambojet with the main aim of increasing efficiency for its connecting passengers into the domestic routes and to increase tourism in the sector as well.
“Jambojet continues to be one of our key revenue generators and thus we will constantly work on strategic linkages to grow our domestic market. The codeshare strategy helps to strengthen both Kenya Airways and Jambojet, allowing for further growth in the region,” said KQ CEO Mr Mbuvi Ngunze
The national carrier has also moved international, making codeshare agreements with different overseas airlines. For instance, it entered a codeshare agreement with China’s Hong Kong airlines last year. This was a boost for the carrier, Hong Kong being among the largest trading economies in the world. This was beneficial for the airline with Kenya increasing its imports, mostly infrastructure materials, mobile phones and textile materials, from China.
Another example is the expanding of the codeshare pact with Indian airline, Jet Airways, which has allowed more people to fly to India as the frequency of flights increases. India has some of the best doctors in the world and this causes many Kenyans to visit the country to seek medicare or to study in their medical schools. With the codeshare strategy, people will be able to visit three different cities in India due to the seamless connections.
“Expansion of our codeshare relationship with Kenya Airways will allow us to offer the Indian Diaspora in Kenya convenient access to more destinations in India. At the same time, Indian travellers can enjoy the opportunity to explore more of Kenya and East Africa via our international codeshares,” Jet Airways Chief Commercial Officer, Jayaraj Shanmugam said.
The Kenyan national airline has moved to expand its codeshare agreement with major Asian airlines seeking to get a piece of the pie, which is the major business from the growing continent. However, Asia has not been the only continent the national carrier has made a move on; it has also made several codeshare pacts in the United Arab Emirates, trying to keep its close ties with the region, where most Kenyans travel to for leisure and business.
Oman Air on its launch in Kenya also indicated towards a codeshare pact with Kenya Airways. This would see tourism between the two nations continue to grow, with Oman Air looking to expand to Mombasa as a destination as well. The fact that a person with a Dubai Visa can enter into Oman automatically, makes it easy for those travelling between the two because they no longer feel the pinch of having a single visa.
The number of airlines launching routes in Kenya is increasing, the Gulf and Asian airlines are attracting passengers with innovation and fair prices better than KQ. However, with the codeshare strategy the carrier can overturn this and become great again. There is need for more support from the government in terms of protectionism as well as good management in the national carrier to ensure that it regains its title as the true pride of Africa.