By Mugambi Mutegi
Qatar Airways has announced that it will launch direct flights between Mombasa and Doha next year, stepping up domestic competition for national carrier Kenya Airways.
The Middle East carrier, which already operates daily flights to Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), says Mombasa is among the 12 new destinations it will launch in 2018.
The State-owned Qatar joins international carriers such as Ethiopian Airlines, Turkish Airlines and RwandAir which currently fly directly into the coastal city of Mombasa.
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Unlike these carriers, KQ, as the airline is referred to by its international code, has to pass through its Nairobi hub before proceeding to Mombasa, making Qatar’s impending entry a competitive threat to its business model.
“The new destinations announced today mean that we can now bring (our) innovative and world-class products to even more travellers around the world,” said Qatar’s chief executive Akbar Al Baker in a statement.
The Transport ministry last July also granted low-cost carrier flydubai the rights to begin daily flights between Dubai and Mombasa, further raising competitive pressure on KQ.
The government says the only way the sector can fully recover, and attract more tourists, is through opening up the skies.
KQ, which posted a Sh26.2 billion loss in the year to March, has decried this policy, saying it is eating into local and international business and impeding its return-to-profitability strategy.