Kenya Airways Will Begin Flying Nairobi – New York in October

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The US will get another nonstop link to Africa this year when Kenya Airways launches its first-ever nonstop flight to the Americas. The national airline of Kenya has been in financial trouble for years, but on Wednesday it said it plans a bold move: a nonstop flight between Nairobi (NBO) and New York JFK, beginning later this year.

Kenyan media is reporting that the flight will launch in October, operated by one of the carrier’s Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft, with no date set for the inaugural flight. However, the flights have already been loaded on the airline’s site. According to the flight schedule on the Kenya Airways site, the inaugural flight will depart on October 30, 2018. Here’s the operating schedule:

  • KQ2 Nairobi (NBO) 10:25pm Departure ⇒ New York (JFK) 6:25am (+1) Arrival
  • KQ3 New York (JFK) 12:25pm Departure ⇒ Nairobi (NBO) 9:55am (+1) Arrival

Kenya Airways has eight Dreamliner aircraft in its fleet, each with a two-class configuration: economy and Premier World (business). The Premier World cabin is comprised of 30 seats arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration. The seats are lie-flat, with each featuring 31 inches of width and 74 inches of pitch. Further back is the economy cabin, with 204 seats in a 3-3-3 configuration. Each of the seats offers 32.2 inches of pitch and 18.5 inches of width.

The 7,360-mile journey is scheduled to take 15 hours from Nairobi and 14.5 back, thanks to the favorable winds when flying eastbound.

Kenya Airways is a member of the SkyTeam Alliance — the only African carrier in the group. The airline’s membership in SkyTeam means you can use FlyingBlue miles to book this new route. A one-way flight in economy at the Classic level will cost you 40,000 FlyingBlue miles, and in business, the one-way flight will cost 100,000 FlyingBlue miles. On a quick search, there appears to be plenty of availability already loaded on the FlyingBlue site for both cabins of service — even for the inaugural JFK-NBO flight. Remember that you can transfer Amex Membership Rewards instantly to FlyingBlue, and Chase Ultimate Rewards also transfer instantly, while Citi ThankYou points transfer in less than 24 hours.

In September 2017, the US Department of Transportation granted Kenya Airways permission to operate flights to the US. There had been delays, as the Nairobi Airport implemented new security features, such as installing a fence around it and separating the passenger departure and arrival terminals. However, according to Nairobi News, the airport still needs final approval from US authorities in order to be the last point of departure, and Kenya Airways’ aircraft need to be inspected before it’s issued an air operating certificate.

While Kenya Airways seems to be set on launching this route, it may not yet be absolutely certain that it will launch. The airline has seen five straight years of financial losses, according to the Financial Times, and has leased several of its 787s to Oman Air to help repay its debt. Following the losses, it also went for a restructuring in a debt-for-equity swap in November 2017. Now, the Kenyan government and 11 local banks own 90% of the airline.

At this point, it appears Kenya Airways is all in with this move, as the flight are already loaded on its website and award bookings are available on FlyingBlue. If the flight does indeed launch, you can expect TPG to be there for a full review.

Featured image by Wikimedia Commons.

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