Kenya Airways expects its daily direct flights to the United States that it launches for the first time in October to boost annual revenue by 10 percent from 2019, the chief executive said on Thursday.
The carrier, which is 7.8 percent owned by Air France KLM, has started taking bookings for the flights to and from New York that will carry 234 passengers each way on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane.
“We are opening sales of the first non-stop flight from Nairobi to the USA. Which means that as of now, as of this morning you can buy tickets to go to New York and all the US market all the people from New York, but not only New York can buy tickets from JFK to Jomo Kenyatta,” Chief Executive Officer Sebastian Mikosz told reporters at an event to launch the new 15-hour route.
U.S.-bound passengers from Kenya must now change planes in Europe or the Gulf on a journey that can take 20 hours or more.
Kenya has long wanted to fly direct to the United States, but Kenyan carriers were only granted U.S. security clearance for the route in February 2017 after a major refurbishment of facilities at the main Nairobi Airport.
The new route is part of an effort to revive the airline’s fortunes after it came close to collapse, leading to a $2 billion financial restructuring in November that included a government bailout which shrank Air France KLM’s stake.
“This is, roughly this is 10 percent, this is going to increase 2019 revenues by roughly 10 percent of what we have today,” Mikosz said.
The direct flights would also create about 150 new jobs at Kenya Airways, said Mikosz, who was hired from LOT Polish airlines last June to help turn around the carrier.
Kenya Airways shares, which have tripled in value since the November restructuring, jumped 5.9 percent to ($0.1666) on Thursday.