On Wednesday, Air India touched down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with 100 passengers on board to a warm welcome characterised by a water cannon salute.
Dr Betty Radier, Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) Chief Executive who was at hand to welcome the inaugural flight, said the return of the airline presents a big opportunity for the two countries to further strengthen their trade and economic ties cultivated for many years.
“Air India will be instrumental in increasing uptake from both Tier I and II city markets of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Pune, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and others, utilizing its existing domestic infrastructure network, market knowledge and presence,” said Dr Radier, adding that it would help promote tourism, trade, improve relationships and create opportunities between the two countries.
Air India will offer four direct flights a week between Mumbai and Narobi. The four-times-a-week non-stop fight will be operated on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays with a 256 seat Boeing 787 in two-class configuration, business and economy, the airline said in a press release.
Air India will be the only domestic carrier to operate to Kenya from India- fulfilling a long-felt demand from wild- life enthusiasts, tourists, trading community and professionals for a non-stop air connectivity to Nairobi, the release stated.
“India is one of Kenya’s top tourist source market. Arrivals from India in year 2018 grew by 51.9 per cent to reach 125,032. The return of Air India to Kenya adds to the existing connectivity by KQ and other airlines flying into Kenya and thus further enhancing accessibility to Kenya”, said Dr Radier.
Meanwhile, Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCCA) says there is an increase in passenger traffic at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with 12% growth in domestic passengers and 7.6% in international travelers.
KCCA Director General Gilbert Kibe attributes the growth to the introduction of low-cost carriers as well as the efficient airspace management.
Kenya commands an estimated 80% market share in Aviation within East African region and has over 70 air operators.
In the financial year 2018/2019, the country recorded a total number of 1,547 registered Aircraft and over 10,500 licensed aviation personnel which resulted in an acceleration in support service from 5% in 2017 to 8% as per the economic survey.
During the year passenger numbers grew by 9.5% to reach 12.073 million during the financial year compared to 11.022 million last year.
Transit traffic also increased by 8 per cent, while freight increased by 11 per cent this year.