The National Carrier, Kenya Airways (KQ), has announced plans to convert four of its fleet aircraft, the Boeing B737-300 passenger carriers, into cargo freighters to strengthen its cargo business. This is a move that has been necessitated by the need to meet increased cargo transportation demand across Africa and beyond.
Aeronautical Engineers Inc. (AEI), a subsidiary of Boeing Shanghai Aircraft Services that specializes in freighter modification, has been contracted as the authorized agent for the first phase, which consists of converting the first batch of 4 passenger jets. The first two of these aircraft are expected to be pressed into service by early February 2013 with the second one arriving sometime in June.
Kenya Airways Chief Operating Officer Mbuvi Ngunze said that the conversion of the Boeing 737-300 freighters was a cost effective means of boosting efficiency and reliability in the firm’s cargo unit, and would translate into a significant enhancement of the firm’s revenue stream.
The move to explore this as a potential revenue stream with the investment in cargo is seen a move that is not unique to the national carrier. Other more established airlines like KLM, British Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Lufthansa have also, in recent years, invested heavily and ventured into cargo transportation in the Africa region. These freighters, once in service, are expected to tap on the cargo business in some of the regional routes where it operates. The modified cargo crafts will mainly operated in areas that include Juba, Luanda, Bangui, Douala, Yaoundé, Kigali, Entebbe, Dar-es-Salaam, Kinshasa and Bujumbura amongst others.
Apart from just handling the cargo along this route, these freighters which will have greater capacity than the current small aircraft on these routes will go a long way in accommodating excess baggage overspills that have always been a headache for the carrier, further complementing passenger traffic especially in Central and West Africa.
KQ is a market leader in Africa air industry, and this move to diversify its services is seen as a measure to maintain its hold on this position, in the face of new competition from airlines like Egypt Air, South African Airways and Ethiopian Airlines.