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Kenya Airways to Lease Two 737-800Fs to Expand Cargo Capacity

A Kenya Airways Boeing 787-8 at Schiphol Airport. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | James Dinsdale)

Kenya Airways Cargo is set to expand its freighter fleet as it seeks to meet growing demand for cargo services.

The airline will lease two Boeing 737-800F aircraft in the third quarter of the year, according to CEO Allan Kilavuka, a move that comes as the airline looks to capitalize on the growing demand for air cargo and generate more revenue from its freight business amid heightened competition from other carriers in the region.

“We shall lease the aircraft in quarter three,” Kilavuka said, without providing details on the leasing.

The new freighters have better range and can reach further afield than the existing freighters, with the ability to carry around 20 tonnes to destinations in the Middle East, India, Istanbul, and Southern Europe.

KQ’s current Boeing 737-300F fleet have a lower cargo capacity and cannot operate long-range flights. The airline currently operates two 737-300F aircraft. The additional aircraft will help Kenya Airways Cargo tap into the growing demand for cargo services, which has surged during the pandemic.

Increased Cargo Appetite

Following the success of its cargo-only flights during the Covid pandemic, the airline developed a customer base during the Covid pandemic that is yearning for more, especially to the Middle East and India, according to Kenya Airways’ cargo director, Dick Murianki, speaking on the sidelines of the Air Cargo Africa event in Johannesburg.

Speaking at the conference session later in the day, the airline’s chief executive, Allan Kilavuka, said that two Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners had been used on cargo-only flights to long-haul destinations in China and Europe during the pandemic, with each aircraft able to carry around 50 tonnes per flight.

The conversion enabled Kenya Airways to increase its cargo volume by 29% to 63,726 metric tons in the year ended December 2021, compared to the same period in 2020.

The CEO added that outbound volumes during the cargo-only operation had been much stronger than inbound, but there could be an opportunity to use Nairobi as an import hub for the rest of Africa.

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted a surge in air cargo demand, as passenger flights were significantly reduced due to travel restrictions. Cargo carriers have stepped in to meet the demand, using their freighter fleets to transport medical supplies, perishable goods, and other essential items.

Kenya Airways Cargo’s expansion of its freighter fleet is a strategic move to capitalize on the growing demand for air cargo, as the airline aims to develop its cargo operations further.

Freighters, as compared with bellyhold operations, allow carriers to operate long-haul flights to airports where passenger demand isn’t strong enough to justify the use of larger aircraft.

The success of cargo-only operations during the pandemic has demonstrated the potential for expanding air cargo services in the future, and the investment in new freighters will enable Kenya Airways Cargo to position itself as a leading provider of air cargo services in Africa.

Victor Shalton


  • Victor Shalton

    Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Victor’s love for aviation goes way back to when he was 11-years-old. Living close to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, he developed a love for planes and he even recalls aspiring to be a future airline executive for Kenya Airways. He also has a passion in the arts and loves writing and had his own aviation blog prior to joining AirlineGeeks. He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration at DeKUT and aspiring to make a career in a more aviation-related course.

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