Kenya Airways (KQ) is set to launch direct flights from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Mogadishu on Thursday as it mulls over flying to Hargeisa in Somaliland.
The airline will also introduce a flight to Bujumbura, Burundi as part of its plan to grow its regional presence.
KQ Managing Director Sebastian Mikosz said the airline will fly seven times weekly linking Nairobi and Mogadishu in a move that is expected to open new trade opportunities between the countries.
“The addition of this route to our network demonstrates our commitment to improving connectivity on the African continent, while creating new opportunities for corporates, investors, traders and tourists”, said Mikosz.
The daily flight is expected to depart from Nairobi’s JKIA at 0740hrs and land at Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport at 0945hrs then back to Nairobi at 1300hrs with Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 making its first trip on this route.
In March last year, Kenya signed trade agreement with Somali by stating plans of opening two border posts and re-launching direct flights from Nairobi to Mogadishu ending an 11-year flight blackout to and from Mogadishu to help facilitate movement of people and goods in its quest to expand mark to the Horn of Africa.
Kenya had in 2006 suspended direct flights to Mogadishu following increased terror threats and attacks by the al-Qaeda linked terror group the Al-shabaab.
Planes from Mogadishu had to pass through Wajir International Airport for security checks and screening before proceeding to Nairobi.
Travel demands from investors
In his statement, Mikosz said that the extension will help ease travel demands from Nairobi to Mogadishu for investors.
“The launch of this route is expected to ease travel between the two cities that are the focal points of business in the two countries and spur commercial activities. We want to extend our network reach and make it convenient for our guests who work and invest in Somalia,’’ stated Mikosz.
The launch of the direct flight from Nairobi to Mogadishu will benefit Kenya by reducing trade gaps which amounts to Sh99.8 billion.
According to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Kenya imported goods worth Sh152.7 billion from Somalia last year against exports of Sh52.8 billion.
Some of products Kenya imports from Somalia include tobacco, pharmaceuticals, machinery and electrical products.
Khat farmers in Kenya stand to benefit the most from planned direct flights considering that Somalia is their leading export market.
Kenya has also been under pressure to introduce direct flights to Hargeisa and the introduction of flights to Mogadishu will push for introduction of a direct route to the Somaliland capital.
New Somaliland envoy to Kenya Omar Bashe has taken a keen interest in pushing for the introduction of direct flight to Hargeisa saying it will not only improve ties but also trade between the two countries.
“Since more than 18,000 Somaliland citizens live in Kenya and a similar number of Kenyans living and working in Somaliland, we need direct flights between the two countries. It will also boost trade opportunities and create market for products from the nations,” Bashe said.
So far, Ethiopia Airlines provide two flights that fly directly to Somaliland between Addis Ababa and Hargeisa. Fly Dubai also has flights between Dubai and Hargeisa.
By Odindo Ayieko