Plane lease end to save KQ Sh4bn

National carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) plans to terminate the lease for two of its Boeing 777-300 aircraft in a move set to see it save between $25 million (Sh3.3 billion) to $30 million (Sh3.9 billion).

KQ chief executive Allan Kilavuka told the Business Daily that the airline is terminating the agreement for the two planes as they do not fit into their current network plan.

The lease for the two aircrafts that carry about 400 passengers and were flying Europe and Middle East routes was initially set to end in 2026.

“The 777 at the moment does not fit into our network plans and we are working to terminate the lease of the two aircraft. So the process of termination has begun and negotiations are ongoing. One is pretty much complete,” said Mr Kilavuka.

Mr Kilavuka said the savings of up to Sh3.9 billion will be after deducting the termination penalties bearing in mind that the deal was to lapse in three years’ time.

KQ had leased the two planes from an undisclosed firm and then subleased them to Turkish Airlines after scaling down large crafts from its fleet.

The airline will first have to receive the planes from the Turkish Airline before returning them to the owner and save itself from costs such as leasing fees and expenses of servicing idle planes.

The termination of the current lease for the two Boeing 777-300 comes after KQ ended another agreement with Congo Airways, the national flag carrier of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, after six months.

The two airlines had entered a two-year deal in early 2021 where KQ was meant to lease two of its Embraer E190 aircraft to Congo for their cargo codeshare partnership.

The deal was meant to see KQ save over 100 million annually on maintenance costs and earn additional revenue from hiring them.

The Kenyan Government has been pushing for a restructuring of the airline on the back of a multi-billion-shilling bailout plan where the struggling carrier is required to reduce its network and operate a leaner fleet.

KQ has focused on restructuring its fleet, including selling aircraft and sub-leasing to other airlines in an attempt to return to profitability.

The airline had a fleet of 42 aircraft, either owned or on lease, according to data from its annual report in the year ended December 2021.

Source: Business Daily

UAE is rooting for the revival of medical travel

The country has been at the forefront of creating a reliable ecosystem favourable for medical travel to thrive again.

In light of the pandemic, the healthcare sector, like any other industry, had to reassess its priorities and make constant adjustments to suit the shifting patterns. Among the difficulties it faced was the complete shutdown of medical travel due to travel restrictions and patients’ fear of hospital visits.

Fortunately, as we slowly emerge from the pandemic, medical travel is again gaining traction. In the UAE, important decisions taken in the early days to curtail the virus and the effective preventive measures put in place have catalysed the comeback. The country has been at the forefront of creating a reliable ecosystem favourable for medical travel to thrive again.

Recent research has found that the global medical tourism industry is estimated between US$35 to US$55 billion, with 12-14 million travellers taking medical trips each year for treatments including cosmetic surgery, reproductive health, dental and orthopaedic, amongst others. Reportedly, the growth rates for medical travel remain stable between 7-9 per cent, with the wellness tourism market expected to grow much faster at 20 per cent per annum.

The Asia-Pacific’s medical tourism industry is expected to grow at the highest rate., boasting advanced healthcare infrastructure and a skilled workforce to cater to international patients. Furthermore, the rise in the number of international health insurance providers is another factor that has contributed significantly to the growth of the global medical tourism industry.

Spotlight on the UAE

The UAE is expected to witness the fastest growth in the Middle East, supported by mandatory insurance in Dubai, expanding medical travel, increasing population and medical inflation. The country’s medical travel industry is expected to reach US$53.5 billion by 2028, with Dubai having a majority share of the medical travel market. The influx of international patients is expected to grow by 20 per cent from 2022.

The country is renowned for offering state-of-the-art services in plastic surgery, orthopaedics and sports medicine, ophthalmology, preventative healthcare, dental surgery, wellness, dermatology, and aesthetic procedures, among others.

The UAE’s decision to make private hospitals COVID-19-free was one of the several factors instrumental in bringing about this much-needed change. Compared to other preferred medical tourism destinations, a clear difference can be seen between the UAE’s approach to handling the pandemic, which has given the country a unique advantage. The structured approach that the government took made it a leading example for the rest of the world.

Furthermore, these measures have been crucial in building confidence among international patients. Moreover, major global airlines have returned to business as usual, while the hospitality industry is continuing to implement stringent hygiene control.

Also, most shopping malls, F&B outlets and entertainment industries are back in full swing, creating a much-needed tourism ecosystem. All these factors are boosting medical travel and creating an environment conducive to industry growth.

Looking at the Northern Emirates, last year, RAK Hospital in Ras Al Khaimah won two prestigious awards from World Medical Council (WMC) at WMC Excellence Awards 2022 in Dubai. Bagging the ‘Medical Tourism Hospital of The Year’ award, the healthcare institution was recognised for its commendable efforts in promoting UAE as a medical tourism destination across the globe and establishing the hospital as a preferred medical tourism destination.

At RAK Hospital, we have always worked in line with the UAE’s vision. With a department exclusively dedicated to foreign patients, we have created a vast network that ensures a complete, holistic and satisfying experience for patients from start to finish, both in terms of a welcoming environment and world-class treatment. Over the years, RAK Hospital has represented UAE on international platforms to generate medical travel into the country successfully. Moreover, it has also gained a reputation for successfully handling critical emergency surgical cases flown into the country, further cementing UAE on the medical travel map. In fact, we witnessed an increasing number of medical tourists and inquiries at RAK Hospital last month.

Regulatory initiatives

A collaborative approach across private and public healthcare providers and the UAE government is increasing, which is expected to drive better health outcomes and ensure the sustainability of the health ecosystem. Regulatory authorities and governments are working towards increasing access to accurate real-time health information and services for better planning of healthcare infrastructure and workforce and increasing better health outcomes.

For instance, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has launched the “Dubai Health Experience” as the world’s first medical tourism portal to boost medical travel. The Department of Health Abu Dhabi (DoH) and the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi has also launched the Abu Dhabi Medical Tourism e-portal. These portals allow visitors to book medical procedures and take advantage of discounted airfares, visas, medical insurance, hotel stays, leisure activities and more.

Leveraging telemedicine

As a result of the increasing adoption of “connected care”, technological advances have changed from the traditional asset-heavy hospital-related developments to pioneering medtech devices; to new sector niches, such as digital health, including its subcategories mobile health, wearable devices, telehealth and telemedicine, and personalised medicine.

The emergence of telemedicine as an essential communication tool has been a further boon for the medical travel industry. With the world shifting to virtual platforms due to the tough travel restrictions, telemedicine emerged as one of the most important means to establish regular contact between patients and healthcare professionals.

There are two primary areas of telemedicine:

  • Teleconsultation enables patients (alone or accompanied by healthcare professionals) to consult a doctor remotely by means of technological tools.
  • Telemonitoring enables a medical professional to interpret data collected in the patient’s living environment remotely and in real time.

I have always strongly felt that most medical tourists could opt for telemedicine for the first few initial consultations and procedures. To achieve this, we offer free teleconsultation to familiarise medical tourists with this route. At RAK hospital, our doctors actively engage with telemedicine patients worldwide and offer them best-in-class consultations, further cementing confidence in the tool. With immense growth opportunities available, telemedicine is already on the path to becoming a profit-making prospect.

Source: Omnia Health

Nairobi-Coast air tickets for Easter increase to Sh24,000

Air tickets from Nairobi to coastal towns have increased to highs of Sh24,000 one-way ahead of Easter festivities as some flights are sold out, marking one of the steepest rises in the last three years.

The high airfare charges are a result of high demand as people plan to troop to the Coast for the holiday.

Passengers travelling to Mombasa and Ukunda on Good Friday will pay Sh24,776 on Safarilink from as low as Sh8,200 they would have paid this week on some of the flights to the coastal towns.

The airline’s chief executive Alex Avedi said the destination is one of the leading tourist destinations in the country.

“The Kenya coast has always been booming ever since the Covid-19 pandemic. There is a lot of domestic travel which has continued post the pandemic and, as you know, there is a general recovery in the sector,” said Mr Avedi on Wednesday.

Airlines charge lower fares when they make early bookings compared to making their reservation at the last moment.

Airlines such as Skyward Express have recorded full bookings from March 31 to April 8 on the Nairobi-Malindi route.

The carrier is charging up to Sh18,200 on April 5 one-way to Diani from Wilson Airport in Nairobi.

Full Safarilink and Jambojet bookings mean other airlines will be the option for passengers travelling to the coast around Easter.

Jambojet is sold out on the eve of Good Friday as well as on Good Friday on routes such as Ukunda.

The carrier is, however, charging Sh17,700 one-way from Nairobi to Ukunda on April 8, up from around Sh9,200 when demand is low.

Source: Business Daily

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The Massive Tech Developments Poised To Shake Up Travel In 2023

The influence of artificial intelligence, the need for businesses of all sizes to protect against hackers and why travel must hone its TikTok content were among topics explored at the 2023 TTI Travel Tech Summit. 

Experts gathered in London this week to assess the year’s key technology issues and debate how the industry can capitalise on shifting trends – and where it is lagging behind other sectors.

Here are four tech developments poised to shake-up travel in 2023. 

’AI Has Potential Across Every Aspect Of Travel’

Artificial intelligence – providing it is used in the right context – has the potential to help travel businesses across every part of the industry. 

That was the message from Travel Ledger founder Roberto De Re, who predicted AI will be able to transform the customer experience journey – offering differentiated product information and client services – meaning travel brands could do away with “rigid” bots. 

“It would cost a fortune to pay human beings to create unique content for every distributor, so AI has a real application in that space,” he said.

’Big Or Small – You’re Equally At Risk’

 No matter how small your company is – you still must take steps to protect yourself from online hackers and against cybercrime. 

Darren Gale, vice-president of IronNet Cyber Security, said digital attacks were getting “more sophisticated” and travel companies needed to focus on employee education as well as defensive tools.

“I can guarantee travel is being focussed on by these threats because of the industry’s data sets and their desirability, as well as the transaction volumes associated with holiday bookings,” Gale warned. 

Time Is Ticking – So Up Your Tiktok Game

 We all know the growing influence of TikTok but just how impactful is it to certain demographics when planning their travel?

According to Yona Fredericks-Elekima, founder of online travel agency the Take Off Club, 60% of the app’s users are Gen Z [those born from the late-1990s to early 2010s] and they are being influenced to book through companies displaying their favourite content.

 “People will be asking ‘Where did you book? Where can I find this holiday?” Fredericks-Elekima told delegates. “They want to be able to go on these holidays.”

 Although, she stressed the industry should not have a one-size-fits-all approach to its social channels, and urged brands to “find what works for you”.

 ’Don’t Be Afraid To Integrate Payments’

 The tourism and hospitality sectors are “still very far behind” when it comes to integrated payment solutions, according to Planet’s senior VP for the UK, Ireland and North America Steven Dow. 

“Businesses don’t move quickly because they’re nervous… there’s the whole GDPR finance compliance, the data security, it’s all very stressful,” he told delegates. 

Dow urged travel firms to boost their integrated payment services in a bid to streamline processes and improve customer experience.

He explained it could be the difference between a customer having to queue at a hotel reception for their room key and them having all the information already on their credit card.

Source: TTG

Tanzania and Senegal team up over Airbus engine problems

Air Tanzania and Air Senegal are considering joint action against the engine manufacturers of Airbus A220-300 aircraft, which have remained grounded for the past several months owing to technical problems.

An Air Senegal delegation was in Dar es Salaam this past week for discussions with Air Tanzania officials on how best to take on Pratt & Whitney, the American aerospace company that produces the PW1524G-3 engines used by the planes.

Both national carriers believe that the company is dragging its feet in resolving the longstanding issue of defective engines, leading to mounting losses for the airlines as their A220-300 fleets remain grounded.

According to Air Tanzania CEO Ladislaus Matindi, Airbus A220-300 aircraft problems had been uncovered by all airlines operating the planes worldwide, which in Africa includes EgyptAir.

Apart from engine defects, the shortfalls also include lack of alternative engines and the plane’s body developing rust much sooner than intimated in its Maintenance Planning Document, thus elevating repair and maintenance costs.

Engine design defects

“The PW1524G-3 engines made by Pratt & Whitney for A220-300 planes are supposed to be removed for maintenance after 5,260 landings but due to engine design defects they are removed before even 1,000 landings,” Matindi said.

The two airlines intend to take Pratt & Whitney to task for failure to fulfill its contractual responsibility to supply extra engines in the event of engine failures.

“We have been engaged in amicable negotiations with the company to fix the serious engine problems so that the planes can resume normal flight operations. But if amicable negotiations fail we could resort to legal action,” he said, adding that negotiations also involve compensation for the losses incurred so far, although he did not quantify how much Air Tanzania was losing.

Air Tanzania was the first African carrier to buy the Airbus A220-300 model in 2018 and its current fleet of 12 aircraft includes four of these.

EgyptAir grounded 10 aircraft over similar engine problems.

Source: The East African

RwandAir expands wide-body fleet with delivery of third A330

RwandAir has taken delivery of an Airbus A330-200, the airline’s third long-haul aircraft.

The aircraft, registered 9XR-WX, was delivered to Kigali International Airport (KGL) on March 18, 2022, the airline said in a statement published on Twitter.  

RwandAir’s CEO Yvonne Makolo said the aircraft would allow the Rwandan flag carrier “to continue our route expansion and offer customers even more connections”. 

The new aircraft will operate to RwandAir’s key destinations in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, as well as to London, Brussels, Lagos, and Dubai, the statement added.  

Fleet expansion and route development 

The arrival of RwandAir’s new A330 aircraft comes four months after the airline’s cargo arm, RwandAir Cargo, received a Boeing 737-800 SF, its first cargo-dedicated aircraft. 

The freighter was delivered on November 24, 2022, and was intended to support the expansion of the airline’s cargo operations, operating to destinations in Africa and the Middle East, including Johannesburg, Nairobi, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  

RwandAir launched direct flights to London from its hub in Kigali in November 2022, operating four weekly flights to London Heathrow Airport (LHR). The airline had previously operated three weekly flights to LHR via Brussels. 

In addition to expanding its long-haul fleet, Makolo also hinted at the airline’s plans to grow its 737 fleet and make changes to its regional fleet.  

During a podcast interview with AviaDev Insight Africa Makolo highlighted RwandAir’s plans to phase out its existing fleet of Bombardier CRJ aircraft and explore alternative options for its regional fleet. 

Source: Aerotime Hub

Lufthansa Commits To East Africa With More Nairobi Flights & New GM

Lufthansa has appointed a new General Manager for the East Africa region and will now fly between Frankfurt and Nairobi daily.

The Lufthansa Group is reaffirming its commitment to East Africa by relocating the commercial responsibility for the passenger service back to Kenya.

The group has appointed a new General Manager for the East African region stationed in Nairobi, Kenya. The airline will further increase its presence in Kenya by adding more flights from Frankfurt, while Swissport will offer more services to the German flag carrier in Nairobi.

An experienced General Manager for East Africa

Effective March 1, Lufthansa appointed Kevin Markette as the new General Manager for the East African region, which includes Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania. With a physical presence in the region, he will be able to manage the demands of the local market directly.

Markette succeeds Dr. André Schulz, who has now been appointed Head of Region Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and CIS at Lufthansa. Kevin will report to Philippe Saeys-Desmedt, Senior Director of Sales Sub-Sahara Africa, Lufthansa Group, in his new role.

The group is pleased to have Kevin on the team in East Africa. Lufthansa is confident that he will continue strengthening the relationships developed with businesses and customers in the region. Philippe Saeys-Desmedt said;

“It is our pleasure to welcome Kevin Markette to this important and dynamic region. We draw upon Kevin’s vast global experience, including that on the African continent, to enhance our market position and trustful relationships established with our business partners and customers. Being now located with his team in the East African region, seated in Nairobi, he will quickly forge new relationships in the region.”

Kevin is an individual whose experience and qualifications speak to his reputation. Educated in Pretoria, South Africa, he has qualified as a commercial pilot and well-versed airliner with over 23 years of experience working with the Lufthansa Group.

He previously headed up several teams within the Sales and Customer Servicing organization of the German organization across various cities, including New York, Atlanta, Accra, Dubai, Lagos, Karachi, and Johannesburg.

Increased schedule between Frankfurt and Nairobi

Global travel is not far from pre-pandemic levels, so various international markets have seen increased demand. To meet this, additional capacity is required, and Lufthansa has reviewed such demands and made necessary adjustments for the upcoming summer flight schedule where possible.

From June 3, the airline will expand its connection between Frankfurt International (FRA) and Jomo Kenyatta International (NBO) airports. The summer flight schedule will be increased from five to seven weekly flights. The additional flights will arrive in Nairobi at 20:30 daily and depart for Frankfurt at 22:25 EAT.

Simultaneously, Lufthansa’s leisure carrier, Eurowings Discover, will continue to operate its four weekly summer flights between Frankfurt and Mombasa. This will bring the total capacity between Kenya and Germany to a staggering eleven weekly flights.

Important strategic market for Lufthansa

Lufthansa Group has significant commercial interests in the East African region as it already serves Mombasa, Zanzibar, and Kilimanjaro through Eurowings. New East Africa GM Kevin Markette said in a statement;

“East Africa is undoubtedly one of the most important markets for us on the continent, and our booking figures reflect that the region is particularly popular with holidaymakers from Germany and abroad. Thanks to the vast expansion of our route network on the continent, together with our Group airlines, our customers can now reach their idyllic holiday or business destinations much faster and more directly.”

Furthermore, by increasing its frequency to Nairobi, Lufthansa is underlining the importance of Kenya for the group and its long-term commitment to the region. Markette added, “such positive developments can only be accomplished through strong partnerships with Kenyan corporates who share a common goal and who supported and trusted us throughout the recent challenging years.”

Lufthansa cargo handling in Nairobi

Before announcing the new flight schedule, Lufthansa Group extended its contract with ground and cargo handling services company Swissport in Nairobi. The latter has provided airline ramp and gate services at the Nairobi airport for more than 11 years.

The continued partnership with the German flag carrier will now include air cargo and warehousing services. Swissport Kenya Managing Director Racheal Ndegwa said in a statement;

“Air cargo handling and warehousing are crucial components of our business, and we are proud to match the needs of Lufthansa Cargo with our operational readiness and world-class facilities here in Nairobi.”

In 2022 Jomo Kenyatta Airport ranked as the eighth-busiest airport in Africa, therefore, it is an essential travel and logistics hub for many international airlines. Swissport currently serves over 20 airline customers in Nairobi, managing 320 flights and nearly 6,000 tonnes of cargo monthly.

Source: Simple Flying

Demand for UAE staycations gathers steam as travel becomes more expensive

Dubai: After a bustling events season with occupancy rates of 85 to 90 per cent from January to mid-March, UAE hotels are launching attractive staycation deals for the upcoming holy month of Ramadan and the long Eid Al Fitr weekend. And as international travel gets more expensive, staycations are becoming all the more popular among UAE residents.

Hotels across the UAE have slashed their prices on staycation deals by 30-40 per cent compared to the January-March peak demand. According to a recent survey, 35 per cent of UAE residents are opting to celebrate the upcoming holiday season locally. by 

Amongst the ones planning to celebrate in the country, a significant majority are planning for staycations in Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain, and Abu Dhabi.

Book early for the best deals

From complimentary upgrades to spa treatments and free night stays, hotels across categories – luxury, four-star, three-star, and budget properties – have launched attractive packages for Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr.

Deals at five-star hotels in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are currently priced between Dh600 to Dh1,250 per room per night. And prices will increase closer to Eid, so hoteliers advise staycation seekers to book well in advance. For example, Anantara The Palm is offering a 25 per cent discount to UAE residents in any room or villa, and rates start at Dh950.

UAE residents can enjoy special rates and early check-in and late check-out at Legoland Hotel with complimentary access to either Legoland Dubai or Legoland Water Park for Dh850 for two adults and one child. Palazzo Versace Dubai offers staycation deals for Dh1,250 until April 30, including a whole array of benefits for UAE residents.

Five Palm Jumeirah’s ‘pay three and stay four’ and ‘pay six and stay eight’ deals are hugely popular and are priced between Dh1,544 to Dh1,755 for a family of four.

Properties in Ras Al Khaimah are more affordable, with staycation deals at Dh1,065 at the Marjan Island Resort and Dh1,099 at Cove Rotana. The offers are for a one-night weekend stay. Weekday stays are at least 20 per cent cheaper.

Staycations back in demand

Laura Eggleton, General Manager of Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown, said: “In 2021, 4 per cent of the business was driven through staycation, which reduced to one per cent in 2022. Our Q4 long weekend did better than expected, although the major driver was the leisure travel than through staycations.” However, demand is picking up again this season.

“We’re seeing interest, but with all Eid periods, our lead time for bookings is very last minute,” said Eggleton. The hotel has launched a special Ramadan Kareem Room Package, including Iftar and Suhoor, starting at Dh549 (excluding taxes).

Anoop Dhondoo, Cluster General Manager, Novotel and Ibis World Trade Centre and Ibis One Central, told Gulf News: “Our hotels have been operating at a high occupancy rate of 75-80 per cent during the festive season, and we have even been fully booked at times. Some of the demand is being driven by staycation guests.” Ibis One Central and Novotel Hotels, part of the Accor Group of Hotels, offer their loyalty programme members (Accor Live Limitless) a 15 per cent discount with several perks.

What are ‘workcations’?

There’s a growing trend among UAE residents to indulge in ‘workcations’, where residents choose to stay in hotel properties with their families while logging into work from a remote location. According to Marriott Bonvoy’s 2023 Travel Trends research, which analysed the 2023 travel plans of 14,000 travellers across Europe and the Middle East, hybrid and remote working has significantly impacted travel plans in 2023.

“Nearly a third of those from the UAE (31 per cent) and 23 per cent from Saudi Arabia plan to take a ‘work-away holiday’ – where they will continue to log on and work whilst travelling, thus allowing them to experience a new place without taking annual leave,” said Neal Jones, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Marriott International – Europe, Middle East and Africa. And a lot of these residents would opt for these workcations in Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, and Umm Al Quwain

Source: Gulf News

Airlink to start flights between Johannesburg and Nairobi

South African regional airline Airlink has announced that it is starting a major new international route, between Johannesburg and Nairobi, Kenya, next month. Airlink will become the first private-sector airline to operate on this route.

This will make Kenya the third East African country, and the fifteenth African country, served by Airlink. The new service will start operating on April 24, and will be operated daily.

“Airlink’s entry on the route supports last November’s agreement by Kenya and South Africa to eliminate trade barriers and strengthen commerce and economic ties by opening up business and cooperation between the two major economies in key sectors and markets,” explained airline CEO and MD Rodger Foster. “It also follows South Africa’s removal of visa requirements for Kenyans visiting South Africa for up to 90 days (South Africans do not require visas to visit Kenya).”

The carrier will operate the service using its 98-seat Embraer E190 jet airliners. The Johannesburg-Nairobi flights will be coded 4Z 070, and depart at 09h40, arriving in Nairobi at 14h45. The return flights will be coded 4Z 071 and leave Nairobi at 15h45, landing at Johannesburg at 19h05.

“This is also an important moment for Eastern-Southern Africa connectivity,” he highlighted. “With Airlink’s network now including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and most of the Southern Africa Development Community nations, we offer travellers the widest set of choices and convenient regional and intercontinental connections on our aircraft and with our global carrier partners. These enable the businesses and economies Airlink serves to expand their own respective market reach. Similarly, our competitive services will promote tourism in both markets, generating additional foreign travel spend.”

Airlink operates a fleet of 60 jet airliners and, over the past two years, according to Airports Company South Africa, has achieved an average on-time departure performance of 95.73%. It also operates flights to St Helena Island in the South Atlantic. It is a member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and is accredited under the IATA Operational Safety Audit programme.

Source: Engineering News