Kenya Airways (KQ) will resume its daily flight frequency for the New York route in December, citing a spike in forward bookings for the festive month.
The airline had cut the flight frequency on the route to three per week from five in February after demand subsided following last year’s festive period.
The higher demand is a positive signal for the tourism sector, for which the US remains the largest overseas source market accounting for 16 percent of the 870,465 arrivals into the country last year.
The carrier says it will also scale up frequencies in the next summer period starting July-August 2023 should it be forced into cutting flights again early next year if demand flags in the post-Christmas period.
KQ has grappled with fluctuating demand on the US route since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, hence the shifting flight frequencies.
“We continuously monitor demand trends which guide our decision to increase or decrease frequencies on this or any other destination. In the case of JFK (New York’s main airport), we will increase frequencies to daily during the festive season in December,” said the airline.
KQ started direct flights to the US in October 2018, with the route seen as key to reviving the airline’s fortunes.
This flight allows the airline to benefit from connecting travellers who transit through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) from other African capitals that lack direct air access to the world’s largest economy.
KQ had forecast its daily direct flights to the US would boost annual revenues by more than 10 percent in 2019 and 2020, but the Covid pandemic watered down these gains after both the US and Kenya imposed access restrictions on their respective jurisdictions.
The airlines sector has however been recovering as the pandemic recedes, allowing the likes of KQ to pare back some of the steep losses they suffered in 2020 and 2021.
The national carrier narrowed its net loss for the six months to June to Sh9.8 billion from Sh11.48 billion in the same period a year earlier, as its revenues jumped 76 percent to Sh48.10 billion on pent-up demand for travel.