Kenya Airways suffers another blow after its fiercest rival is allowed to serve one of its backbone routes

Ethiopian Airlines joins Rwanda Air as the only other regional airline currently operating scheduled flights to Mombasa from Addis Ababa and Kigali respectively.

Ethiopian Airlines will from next month fly to Mombasa City twice daily, further raising the stakes and complicating Kenya Airways emergence from turbulence.

The Ethiopian Airways entry to the Mombasa route follows President Uhuru Kenyatta’s agreement with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali who visited the country last month and the two leaders among other commitments agreed to allow the Ethiopian carrier to fly frequently on the busy Addis Ababa-Mombasa route.

Early this year, the country also signed the open sky agreement aimed at improving connectivity across the continent and make flying more affordable, further thrusting the national carrier to more direct competition from other regional airlines.

Ethiopian Airlines joins Rwanda Air as the only other regional airline currently operating scheduled flights to Mombasa from Addis Ababa and Kigali respectively.

Turkish Airlines on the other hand is the only foreign airline from Europe operating scheduled flights between Istanbul and Mombasa.

Middle East carrier Qatar Airways last year indicated plans to fly directly from Doha to Mombasa, further piling pressure for KQ, as the national carrier is commonly referred to by its international code.

In July 2016, the transport ministry also granted low-cost carrier flydubai the rights to begin daily flights between Dubai and Mombasa.

Perhaps among one of the biggest disadvantage of flying with Kenya Airways is the fact that unlike other carriers which serve Mombasa, KQ drops passengers at its Nairobi hub before proceeding to Mombasa.

The airline, which recently received additional loans amounting to Sh4.3 billion ($40m) from eight local banks, posted a Sh6.1 billion ($61m) after tax loss for the nine months ended 31 December 2017.

It is not all gloom and doom for Kenya Airways though; the agreement between Kenya and Addis Ababa is also expected to facilitate its entrance and expansion into the Ethiopian market.

“If we allow one airline to fly here four times a day, we should be allowed to fly there four times a day,” KQ chairman Michael Joseph said in an earlier comment.

Ethiopian Airlines currently takes 80 per cent of its local market with the remaining 20 per cent shared out to all other airlines operating in the market.

Critics of KQ have argued for far too long that the government needs to stop protecting Kenya Airways and let it compete with other airlines  in order for the national carrier currently operating in losses to get its act together, maybe Ethiopia Airways is the painful wake up call Kenya Airways needs.

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