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BY JOAN WANJIKU,NAIROBI,8TH FEB,2021-National carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) is expected to operate its first fully fledged cargo flight to London on the repurposed Boeing-787 Dreamliner craft on Monday night.
The airline has become the first global carrier to re-purpose the original passenger craft to carry freight following regulatory approval from both the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) and the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) last week.
The repurposing has served to extend the Dreamliner’s freight carrying capacity from a minimum 30 to 56 tons.
KQ Chief Executive Officer Allan Kilavuka expects the innovation to build into the airline’s revenue diversification strategy as the carrier continues to fly through turbulence resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These is another avenue for us to generate revenues for Kenya Airways to make the airline more sustainable,” he said.
In the medium term, Kenya Airways is seeking to grow the contribution of cargo to its business from seven to 20 per cent over a five-year period.
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the increased freight capacity in the national carrier will serve to grow the airlines contribution to various sections of the economy.
“With this conversion. Kenya Airways can continue supporting the economy, be it on jobs or bringing in more foreign exchange,”he said.
On her part, Trade and Industrialization CS Betty Maina has endeared the national carrier to continue growing its cargo capacity as opportunities continues to sprout to include the recently implemented Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA).
“There is a lot of products that Kenya can get into the market when we have freight space,” she said.
Among the first beneficiaries from the innovation will be fresh produce exporters who send their goods to the European market.
Monday’s consignment will for instance largely feature cut flowers as the exporters move to beat Sunday’s Valentines Day deadline for deliveries.
KQ says it continues to pursue various avenues to grow the demand for cargo including seeking out government contracts for freight uplift.
The carrier is set to re-purpose a second Dreamliner craft to add to its capacity in the short-term even as it mulls the purchase of freighters in the long-run.