Kenya Airways (KQ) will resume daily frequencies for the New York route in December, citing a surge in advance bookings for the festive month.
The airline had reduced the frequency of flights on the route to three a week from five in February after demand slacked after the bank holiday last year.
The higher demand bodes well for the tourism sector, for which the US remains the largest foreign source market, accounting for 16 percent of last year’s 870,465 arrivals.
The airline says it will also be increasing frequencies over the next summer period of July to August 2023 should it be forced to cut flights again early next year as demand slacks in the post-Christmas period.
KQ has been struggling with fluctuating demand on the US route since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, hence the shift in flight frequencies.
“We continuously monitor demand trends that guide our decision to increase or decrease frequencies for this or any other destination. In the case of JFK (New York’s main airport), we will increase frequencies to daily during the Christmas season in December,” the airline said.
KQ began direct flights to the United States in October 2018, with the route believed to be key to reviving the airline’s success.
This flight allows the airline to benefit from connecting travelers traveling through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) from other African capitals that do not have direct air access to the world’s largest economy.
KQ had forecast that its daily direct flights to the US would boost annual revenue by more than 10 percent in 2019 and 2020, but the Covid pandemic diluted those gains after both the US and Kenya imposed entry restrictions on their respective jurisdictions .
However, the airline sector has recovered as the pandemic has abated, allowing companies like KQ to recoup some of the heavy losses they suffered in 2020 and 2021.
The national carrier trimmed its net loss for the six months to June to Sh9.8 billion from Sh11.48 billion a year earlier as its revenue rose 76 percent to Sh48.10 billion on pent-up travel.
However, performance was weighed down by higher operating costs, which rose by half to Sh53.11 billion, driven by a sharp rise in global fuel prices.