Why did the latest Gulf airline chose the smaller handling company in Entebbe


(Posted 04th May 2015)

DAS Handling, Entebbe’s second and much smaller handling company, has reportedly bagged the business of Etihad, which commenced flights last week.

Predominant handling company ENHAS would not comment on factors or circumstances which led to Etihad taking that decision but sources usually in the know have suggested that as DAS also handles Kenya Airways, a company Etihad has operated codeshared flights with from Nairobi to Entebbe, this may have made the difference.

Kenya Airways years ago switched from ENHAS to DAS when they had a spat with the owners of East African Airlines, several of which reportedly were also major shareholders in ENHAS, and as a result did KQ in a tit for tat pull their business at the time over EAA’s attempt to muscle in on their slot times.

Personal experience though also suggests that DAS has issues like their regular failure to put baggage labelled with priority tags – indicating premium passengers’ luggage – first on the carousel when offloading suitcases from the arriving aircraft. This is something they were told time and again and have yet to figure out how to live up to such perhaps small but important expectations of the most sought after passengers of their most important client. With Etihad now another major client, the other main Gulf carriers Qatar and Emirates are also handled by ENHAS, no doubt will such loopholes in quality service need to be plugged if the new business relationship is to prosper and last.

Hidden Gems – Made in Kenya

The Lamu archipelago does not need much explanation in our region oramong my readers. This ancient Kenyan town takes visitors back in
Accessible by air from Wilson Airport with Safarilink and Air Kenya and from
JKIA by Jambojet has Lamu something in store for every visitor.
Festivals galore, from the Lamu Cultural Festival over the Painters Festival to the Lamu Food Festival and the Lamu Yoga Festival, and then some, there is always something to do.
Accommodation available is varied in terms of pricing but if visitors want something
special, here is a very hot tip … Enjoy!


Welcome to Forodhani House and beautiful Lamu, Kenya.

40 kilometres in four months but 431 kilometres remain. Read on to find out more!


(Posted 04th May 2015)

Information coming in from Kenya indicates that about 40 kilometres of the new Standard Gauge Railway, in short SGR, is already complete after work started in earnest some four months ago. A further 431 kilometres however need to be finished if the new Chinese financed railway line is to reach Nairobi by 2017, the deadline set for completion of the first section which will eventually extend all the way to Kigali / Rwanda.

The second stretch, from Nairobi to the border with Uganda, will only see construction commence when the Mombasa to Nairobi line is complete. It is the China Road and Bridge Construction company which holds the main contract for the railway. No information however is coming out of Nairobi’s government circles about the plans to construct a railway from the new port of Lamu to connect the Kenyan hinterland and eventually offer through two branchlines a connection to Addis Ababa and to Juba / South Sudan. The latter, deeply divided by internal conflict between former allies, has for all intent and purpose ran out of money and is unlikely at this stage to finance the domestic section of either the LAPSSET railway line of the planned link from Gulu and Nimule at the Ugandan border to Juba.

Meanwhile has Uganda made progress in securing project finance from China to commence construction of their own new SGR line from Malaba, the border point with Kenya, to connect Kampala and then move towards the border with Rwanda. Another presently dormant line, from Kampala to Kasese near the border with Congo, is also due to be upgraded to SGR standards from the present narrow gauge. Again, no information could be obtained from Kigali on the progress of land acquisition for the new railway line, project financing or the commencement date for construction.

Airline rubbishes false social and mainstream media allegations and rumours


(Posted 04th May 2015)

Kenya Airways yesterday went on record to nip mainstream media allegations in the bud that the airline had cancelled their remaining three Boeing B787 Dreamliner orders.

Truth told, the mainstream media slept when the 07th Dreamliner was delivered over the weekend and when they caught on to the news, probably through this publication, they then wallowed in their comfort mud suggesting that the airline was in talks with either Emirates of Qatar Airways for a financial bailout.

While not asleep they got that one wrong too and no blame should be attributed to them for that as reporting on aviation issues is a complex business which requires knowledge, insight and mainly good inside contacts, something perhaps difficult to attain when merely trying one’s hand on aviation before moving on to other pastures.

The airline did issue a statement, shared with this correspondent late yesterday evening and it reads as follows:

Start quote:

Kenya Airways has entered into a Sale and Lease back transaction for the three B787-8 Dreamliners due to be delivered this year, with AWAS Aviation Trading Limited, a leasing company based in Ireland.

The three B787-8 Dreamliners, to be delivered in May, June and July 2015 will be leased through AWAS rather than financed on the balance sheet of Kenya Airways.

AWAS is a global leader in commercial aircraft sale and leasing with over a portfolio of over 300 aircraft for customers around the world.

Signing the deal, Kenya Airways’ Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Mbuvi Ngunze said the transaction will be beneficial to the company’s balance sheet as it seeks to improve its liquidity.

“Given our current financing, we must be prudent in finding innovative financing solution while keeping with our growth ambition. The new aircraft will be important additions to our fleet as we strive to give our guests the best experience," he added.

“AWAS has proven to be a valuable, responsive and flexible business partner and we are thankful for their support. This means we meet our guest expectations with the youngest fleet in Africa as per our promise," Mbuvi said.

The first of the three aircrafts under this agreement arrived in Nairobi [on the 02nd of May] directly from the Boeing facility in Charleston, South Carolina, USA. This is the seventh of the nine Dreamliners ordered by Kenya Airways.

Sale and Lease Back is a practical fleet modernization avenue for many airlines across the globe.

End quote

That should put firmly to rest some of the wild allegations flying across the social media, triggered by known rumour mongers and naysayers relying on other rumour mongers for their information.

In regard to Kenya Airways being in talks with either Emirates or Qatar Airways, sources close to both airlines have categorically ruled that out but it is a known fact in better informed aviation circles that Kenya Airways and Etihad have held talks in the past over a range of issues aimed at closer cooperation. It was in this spirit in fact that Kenya Airways withdrew their own flights to Abu Dhabi and is now codesharing on Etihad’s daily service from Abu Dhabi to Nairobi. This goes even further as Kenya Airways offers in fact extended code shared routes from Nairobi into their regional network where besides partners KLM/Air France even an EY flight number is shown.

Etihad’s own expansion strategy is well known in aviation circles and compared to other airlines a rather unique way of forming their own Etihad alliance instead of joining one of the three other main alliances, Star, Skyteam and oneWorld. Etihad has sought and continues to seek equity participation in airlines covering certain parts of the globe, like Germany’s second largest airline Air Berlin, Air Seychelles, Jet Airways from India, Air Serbia and Swiss based Darwin Airline, Italy’s Alitalia, Virgin Australia and, albeit with a relatively small equity, Air Lingus.

All these airlines now cooperate closely with Etihad, not just through expanded code share arrangements but also using synergy effects on sales, marketing, purchasing, insurance, maintenance and training.

Notably has Etihad also been discussing a closer cooperation with KLM/Air France and as KLM is a major shareholder in Kenya Airways, it is entirely within the realm of possibility that these talks also included or at least featured a potential deal with KQ.

Nationality requirements on ownership are such that at least 50.1 percent of all issued Kenya Airways shares must be held by Kenyan individuals and corporate investors. That 50.1 percent threshold constitutes a red line and any equity participation would only be possible with limited percentage holdings, unless other foreign shareholders would sell some of their shares to another investor.

A regular reliable source close to Kenya Airways has indicated, without giving any names, that indeed some exploration on options for another deep pocketed equity partner has taken place already and is apparently an ongoing process.

There is no doubt that Kenya Airways presently is lumbered with significant losses but an airline like Etihad has in the past not shied away from taking equity and bailing out airlines with solid medium and long terms growth prospects. Successful examples for that strategy are Air Seychelles, which started turning profits from the second year of Etihad’s acquisition of a 40 percent share. Air Berlin, previously also in financial dire straits is now firmly on the road to break even after a major restructuring which was assisted by Etihad. In the German case have the unions played ball, coming to terms with the looming scenario of either consenting to restructuring or else face major job losses or even a collapse as a worst case scenario. That said however, considering the almost rabid combativeness of the Kenyan aviation unions when it comes to the national airline, apparently not inflicted though on other Kenyan carriers, would their entire mindset have to change too, before such a deal could become reality.

Returning to the fleet expansion has the same source also confirmed that a third Boeing B737-800NG SkyInterior will come on line later this year as will the two remaining Dreamliners, numbers eight and nine. That should firmly put to rest that orders have been cancelled or deferred, and what matters is that the birds are flying in Kenya Airways livery and not if they are owned or leased.

For accurate breaking and regular aviation news look no further but this space!

Dreamliner number seven arrives in Nairobi


(Posted 03rd May 2015)

It is rare that an aviation journalist can beat an airline at their own game but here comes the breaking news that yesterday, Saturday 02nd of May did Kenya Airways receive their 07th Boeing B787-8 Dreamliner, flown in nonstop from Charleston / South Carolina, where this particular B787 was assembled.

A former Kenya Airways staff gave the tip off and the news, even at this late hour, was then confirmed by the airline’s Marketing Director Chris Diaz, that not only did another Dreamliner arrive at noon yesterday but that Kenya Airways had also taken delivery of another Boeing B737-800NG SkyInterior, as was indicated here a few weeks ago. That aircraft did arrive a week ago in Nairobi and will serve regional and continental routes where higher loads make the use of a B737 desirable over that of the airline’s regular short and medium haul workhorse aircraft, the Embraer E190.

(Shown here is Capt. Sherif prior to the ferry flight and the flight route from Charleston to Nairobi)

This puts firmly to rest allegations made on social media by prophets of doom and naysayers that Kenya’s national airline had deferred deliveries or even cancelled purchases, clearly allegations made by either people who do not know hoot from toot or else made with ulterior motives in mind and not caring about the damage such loose talk causes to Kenya as a whole and not just Kenya Airways.

While it is obvious that KQ has endured many challenges over the past years and that their financial situation could be rosier, must the social media sharks be condemned for their continued foulmouthing and downtalking of the airline. It exposes those individuals as either unwittingly being a fifth column for Kenya Airways’ competitors who must be grinning their heads off for having such faithful servants doing their dirty work or else they are utterly unpatriotic elements who instead of building the nation are busy dismantling it.

From me, and just to reiterate that once again, who neither owns Kenya Airways shares nor is being paid or otherwise financially compensated for writing positive stories about KQ, happy landings to the two new birds, their crews and passengers when they take off from Nairobi for their first commercial flights.

South Sudan’s environment under siege as conflict rages on


(Posted 03rd May 2015)

As the South Sudan civil strife enters its 17th month with no peaceful resolution in sight – all previous agreements were broken more or less immediately by the regime in Juba which has only remained in power courtesy of Ugandan protection forces – has the fallout began to spread.

Tens of thousands of people killed, hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes, poaching reaching alarming levels as the troops kill for meat and trophies to sell has now the environment too taken a huge hit, according to information received from Juba.

The Sudd Institute, an independent research and scientific institution, has last week released a report all but accusing the regime of covering up oil spills and leaks from pipelines hit by gunfire, mortars, artillery round and sabotage. The Juba regime, instead of following legislative and regulatory requirements to report and contain such spills, appears to keep the damage to the environment under wraps or else blames the rebels, a convenient scapegoat of course for their own failures.

Companies still active in pumping oil have come under scrutiny by the report and the following information was taken from the report for the benefit of readers:

Start quote

Companies get away with pollution because of lack of transparency in disclosing it to the government and the communities so that necessary actions can be taken’.

Based on a answers received from key officials at the Ministry of Petroleum, Mining and Industry, Ministry of Environment, and Nile Petroleum Corporation, the research organization concluded that ‘there is a zero level enforcement for environmental management transparency practices’.

The report then continues in stating that ‘For example oil spills, incidents and leakages have not been disclosed to the public and the communities as required by the Petroleum Act of 2012. No measures have been taken against non-compliance in disclosing the above to the communities and the public’.

(Picture found in the web attributed and credited to Radio Tamazuj in South Sudan)

It was in fact one Nhial Tiitmamer, the principal research officer at the Sudd Institute who compiled the report and then recommended that the government should open up access to information ‘by making it easy for civil society, community members and researchers to have access to the oilfields to help the government monitor and document environmental conditions and provide mitigation measures accordingly’.

None of this however is expected to happen while the conflict rages on and the stubborn refusal by regime leader Salva Kiir to accept a power sharing deal as formulated by the mediators from IGAD and other international groups can only mean that he will try to hang on to power by any means with no regard for people, economy, wildlife or the environment. Watch this space for breaking and regular news from the wider Eastern African region about environmental problems and challenges.

KWS builds anti poaching alliances in China

Wildlife conservation non-governmental organisations based in China have pledged to forge a united front with Kenya in efforts to combat global wildlife crime.

They held a round-table meeting with a Kenya Wildlife Service goodwill delegation at the Jintai Art Museum in Beijing where they discussed how the civil society could work with governments and communities in the fight against poaching and trafficking in ivory and rhino horn.

The NGOs present included International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Freeland, Traffic, Wildlife Conservation Society (WSC) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This week, the KWS delegation led by the acting Director General, Mr William Kiprono, is scheduled to meet another NGO, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), to discuss ways in which social media platforms can be harnessed to create public awareness on global wildlife crime.

Mr Kiprono called on the civil society to be accountable for their resources they get for conservation work and avoid duplication of efforts. He cited IFAW East Africa, which was working with KWS in securing critical wildlife corridors and dispersal areas in Kenya, as a good example of what can be achieved when government and civil society cooperate.

We need to talk to each other and not at each other. International criminals are not restricted to any nationalities. Let’s work together and make the best use of resources in conservation,” Mr Kiprono said.

He thanked the international community led by the Canadian Government for supporting the construction of a state-of-the-art forensic and genetic laboratory, the only one of its kind in East and Central Africa, which all going well will be launched later in May. He said the laboratory would not only help Kenya in prosecution of wildlife crimes but other countries in the region too to provide crucial scientific evidence.

Mr Kiprono noted that conservation was an expensive enterprise yet it relied on unreliable tourism revenues. The Kenyan government is shouldering about 90 per cent of KWS conservation expenditure and requires support from international partners given that KWS tourism revenues have dropped by an estimated 60 per cent. He told the NGOs: “You should encourage more people to visit Kenya on wildlife safaris not just as part of their contribution to the conservation of iconic wildlife species but also for their own enjoyment and relaxation.”

The Kenyan embassy in China has eased travel procedures for Chinese visitors to Kenya, including allowing them to get visas on arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.

Additional efforts by the Kenya Tourist Board (KTB), KWS and other key stakeholders in the industry to encourage Chinese tourists to visit Kenya include translating promotional materials into Mandarin, training Kenyan tour operators in Chinese culture and languages in Confucius institutes and devising more innovative ways of improving visitor experience.

Many countries targeting Chinese tourists have been conducting surveys on their preferences in hotel cuisine and shopping patterns to figure out how to attract them in a more sustainable way.

KTB has also requested Chinese authorities to be allowed to hold promotional events in zoos and sanctuaries for potential visitors to be encouraged to visit wild animals in their natural habitats in Kenya.

Last year, Kenya was granted the “Approved Destination Status” by the Chinese government. About 10 years earlier, KTB and the China National Tourism Administration Bureau signed a memorandum of understanding on the implementation of a plan for organised group travel by Chinese to Kenya.

Lately, China has emerged as an important potential source of high net worth tourists for Kenya as visitors from the traditional western tourist markets decline.

About 40,000 tourists from China visit Kenya per year, pushing the Asian country to top ten source markets for Kenya globally and the largest source market in Asia. KTB projects the figure to grow steadily in the coming years, hitting 100,000 market next year, though still a negligible fraction of the estimated 100 million outward-bound Chinese tourists.

For added information on Kenya click on www.magicalkenya.com or visit www.kws.go.ke


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