With the Nairobi-Dubai route currently accounting for around 12 per cent of Kenya Airways' revenue, the African carrier is looking to expand its Middle East presence.
"We have a 10-year growth plan in which the Middle East features prominently. While we currently operate to Dubai, Muscat and Jeddah, future plans include launching services to Beirut, increasing frequency to Dubai to 14 a week, and also looking at a few other cities in the Middle East," Abraham Joseph, Kenya Airways regional manager for the Middle East and Pakistan, told Gulf News.
He added that the carrier expects to contribute a better share from the region over the next two to three years, and at present enjoys a healthy load factor of 85 per cent on the Kenya-UAE route.
Outlining improved profitability achieved by Kenya Airways in the half-year ended September 30 against the year earlier period, the carrier stated that the Middle East passenger numbers grew by 24 per cent.
"The response to our newly-launched Jeddah route has been very positive, which adds to our success," said Joseph.
Increase in turnover
The airline said last month that its half-year turnover reached 54.9 billion Kenyan shillings (Dh2.23 billion), a 33.3 per cent increase over the previous year's 41.2 billion shillings, resulting in a 2.034 billion shilling profit after tax compared to 1.436 billion shillings a year ago.
"The Middle East market is very important to Kenya Airways," said Joseph. "There is considerable trade between the UAE and various countries in Africa, and Nairobi, being a prominent hub, plays an important role.
"Oman, on the other hand, has cultural and historical links with East Africa, because of which there is sufficient passenger and cargo traffic between the two countries."
Asked about the challenges to the carrier's growth in this region, Joseph listed the availability of aircraft as the key one.
"We had ordered nine Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets, the delivery of which was to start from October 2010.
"But due to the delay at the manufacturer's end, the delivery has now been pushed to the third quarter of 2013," he said.
Joseph added that in order for the company to go ahead with its expansion plans, Kenya Airways has made alternative arrangements, so that the first of Boeing's 777-300ER (extended range) aircraft will join the Kenya Airways fleet in the second half of 2012.
"We have, in a manner of speaking, reached a saturation point and further growth is possible only when we increase our capacity on the Middle East routes," Joseph added.