China Southern Airlines will next month make its inaugural flight to Kenya from Guangzhou, in a move expected to boost the tourism sector but also raise the competition bar for Kenya Airways.
The national carrier had a code sharing agreement with China Southern Airlines, which guaranteed it business from customers from Nairobi who wanted to connect to other Chinese cities.
The partnership involved Kenya Airways flying customers booked through the Chinese airline's local agents from Nairobi to Guangzhou and, on arrival, were transferred to domestic destinations.
The Chinese carrier said on Tuesday that it will be flying the Airbus A330-200 aircraft, which can carry 300 passengers, from Nairobi to Guangzhou three times a week.
The airline is targeting local travellers who import products from China. It also hopes to get business from tourists visiting the two countries and students on exchange programmes.
Guangzhou serves as a prime connection point to cities in Asia and the Far East markets.
The entrance of China Southern Airlines' is a business threat to Kenya Airways which introduced direct flights to Guangzhou in 2013. The airline may end up losing on passenger referrals given that customers may prefer to fly through the new airline instead of making bookings through a second party.
"We are not in direct competition with Kenya Airways but we will be holding a discussion," said Li Xiang, China Southern Airlines General Manager for East Africa in an earlier interview.
"The Nairobi to Guangzhou route is a prime market given its business atmosphere and the number of business people and students crossing over the two countries," said Li Dongliang, the airline's Vice-President in charge of the Sales Division during a pre-launch media briefing early this year.
Kenya Airways has been expanding to the Far East and Middle East driven by demand from business travellers.
This year, KQ opened a sales and ticketing outlet at Tea Room area in the Central Business District targeting thousands of small traders who buy goods in the Middle East and Asia.
(c) 2015 Nation Media Group. All Rights Reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info)., source Middle East & North African Newspapers