Kenya Airways Will Begin Flying To New York As Of October 2018

Filed Under: Other Airlines

I can’t believe this is actually happening. Since last year it has been rumored that Kenya Airways will launch flights between Nairobi and the US. The airline actually followed through with requesting permission from the US Department of Transportation to operate the route, and that was granted.

After silence about the route for a while, it’s finally happening. Kenya Airways will begin flying daily between Nairobi and New York JFK as of October 30, 2018. The route will be operated with the following schedule:

KQ002 Nairobi to New York departing 11:25PM arriving 6:25AM (+1 day)
KQ003 New York to Nairobi departing 12:25PM arriving 10:55AM (+1 day)

Kenya Airways will use a Boeing 787-8 for the route, featuring 30 fully flat business class seats and 204 economy seats. The route will cover a distance of 7,360 miles in each direction, so this is an ultra longhaul route. The flight is already bookable, and there’s even award space — it looks like there are two business class award seats available every date.

I’m super excited about this route as I’ve been wanting to try Kenya Airways, though it’s sad the airline is lighting money on fire in this way. The airline is doing horribly financially, and nonstop routes from the US to Africa are notoriously difficult to make money on (just look at South African Airways’ financial performance). Clearly the motivation here is prestige over profits. What seems especially crazy is that they’re operating this flight daily, rather than just starting with a few frequencies per week.

Nonetheless I find this route pretty awesome. When the route was first rumored, the airline claimed they’d launch it within a few weeks. Giving about nine months lead time makes a lot more sense, so at least they’re being rational there. Then again, it also gives them time to change their mind (or at least reduce the number of frequencies). Somehow it wouldn’t surprise me if they do.

Now we’ll have to wait and see if RwandAir also launches flights to New York, as has been rumored.

What do you make of Kenya Airways launching flights between Nairobi and New York?

(Featured image courtesy of BriYYZ)

  1. Is there a reason all of these niche players want to land at JFK? I can understand the access to the NY market generally, but is there any impediment to choosing EWR over JFK other than the weird residual “prestige” of JFK and maybe the perception that notwithstanding geographical proximity, EWR is somehow less of a “New York” airport?

    If the last week has shown anything, it’s how deep the dysfunction runs at JFK, the separate fiefdoms, the lack of coherent leadership, etc., etc.

    I live in DC and sometimes “position” to NYC in order to get better business class fares (the differential can often more than make up for the extra time and inconvenience if I’m traveling long haul on my own dime). But even before last week, I will always choose EWR over JFK if I have any choice whatsoever, eg, Lufthansa which operates 747-800s from EWR-FRA.

    The idea that EWR would be anyone’s preferred airport speaks volumes about the sorry state of JFK. But to repeat my initial question, Lucky do you have any thoughts on the reason so many niche carriers still choose to have their one USA flight into JFK?

  2. how many airlines from Africa have a direct flight to the US? is this it?

    Air Maroc
    South African

    TAAG maybe?
    Kenya / Rwanda maybe?

  3. We flew Kenya into Nairobi from UAE. We were on, I’m guessing a 737, in business class. The plane and product wasn’t anything special the service was outstanding. The FA was very excited to explain the dishes he was serving, typical Kenyan items. He was very attentive and knew when to leave us alone. He mentioned that Delta would be flying to Nairobi soon and that they would be flying to the US later. I asked if he was looking to get on the crew for the long flight and he smiled, saying he was thinking about it. The Kenyan people have some of the best smiles.

  4. I don’t see it, but good for them to try.

    Only thing I can think of is that they’ll codeshare with Delta and allow easy 1-stop access to Kenya from a lot of East Coast destinations. Probably easier to go RDU->JFK->NRO than RDU->IAD->AUH->NRO.

    I dont know how much it will open up further connections in Africa though as i’d think between the ME3, Turkish and South African thats already well covered.

  5. @Drew, presumably since Kenya is Skyteam, they are using JFK for logical partner connections throughout the USA on Delta.

  6. It looks like this is not bookable on at the moment. Not sure if other KQ awards are or not.

    @Drew — I think there are some gate availability constraints at Newark, and there aren’t very many international arrivals gates at Newark (and many of the ones that do exist are controlled by United). Plus there is a legitimate lack of understanding of what Newark is for people not already familiar with NYC.

  7. You could also do KL’s 787 from either SFO or JFK, and doing the KQ AMS-NBO flight which also should be on the 787. Only KL plane that has a reverse herringbone config.

  8. @ Drew

    Something similar happens with London – airlines want to fly to Heathrow rather than Gatwick, and almost no-one wants to go to Stansted.

    It means Heathrow has way more onward destinations than the others so, for that reason, may be more lucrative.

    Though frankly all three airports are hell-holes which I’d avoid unless London was my destination.

  9. Delta tried to launch non-stop US-Nairobi service years ago but was advised not to out of security concerns by (I believe) the US DOT or Homeland Security. I’m glad KQ is finally giving it a go and this will save serious amounts of time vs. the usual Europe routing. KQ has generally friendly staff. NBO isn’t the world’s greatest, but at least it has many lounges accessible to the major card programs (Diners, Priority Pass)

  10. It’s actually going to happen! Kenya believe it?

    (Badum tss)

    Interesting to see they are not using KQ1 as a flight number, but rather go for flight 2 out and flight 3 in.

  11. I think that this will be a fantastic route for KQ. KQ looses money not because of bad routes but because it is a grossly inefficient parastatal company run by political cronies. This flight will cut travel time from NYC to NBO roughly in half against routes through Europe (which usually have very long layovers going eastbound). This will not only create much more demand for tourists but also becomes the best route for UN bureaucrats traveling between headquarters in Turtle Bay to the many agencies headquartered in Nairobi who will regularly fill the front of the plane and are not too price sensitive.

  12. @Drew, in addition to what Becky stated, I think EWR is mainly a star alliance airport given United’s huge presence there (plus UA is not present in JFK anymore.)
    JFK tends to attract oneworld/skyteam airlines because of AA (terminal 8) and DL (terminal 4) presence there.

  13. Regarding African airlines: Air Algerie also has the flagship flight to Montréal from Algers and seasonally Oran.

    Regarding KQ JFK: let’s see how they codeshare with delta flights. I can see many pax using DL connectors.

    We need to remember that East Africans also use the ME3 to access east Africa from the USA. I think because of ME3 cuts in service, KQ will win some pax who would utilize a feeder DL flight to the KQ flight at JFK.

  14. With cheaper oil price and more fuel efficient aeroplanes, these routes are becoming once again, a reality. Kudos to KQ for new service to JFK despite its financial troubles.

    Kenya Airways’ business class is no match to those offered by ME3 carriers. But for lucrative corporate/government travellers, the actual service and hardware doesn’t mean that much, as their goal is to get to their destinations as quickly as possible in a way that involves least number of connections/stops. So I do believe they will have a consistent flow of some high-paying customers.

    However,the question is whether this route would survive if fuel price climbs back again… NBO-JFK is more of a prestige factor rather than actual money-making, and the Kenyan government (as they pretty much control the “privatised”airline) will be keen to keep this route going, but if KQ’s financial strain worsens, I don’t know whether prestige factor would overweigh all the financial losses.

  15. I’m very excited to hear about this! Even coming from the west coast, this will make travel to NBO much easier. Our last trip was PHX-LAX-DXB-NBO and then to our safari camp. The total travel time was just over 50 hours.

  16. Let’s see how the route does. Skytrax does not give KQ (as the Kenyan people refer to Kenya Airways) a good rating. The staff generally, are really nice though, as they have highly desirable positions as Flight Attendants, etc in Kenya, some tend to be snobby. Mostly cute and handsome (the men that is). The women dress also very very well.
    The real issue is corruption and incompetence in Kenya and the Airline…maybe they will codeshare with DL. Who knows

  17. Great to see this actually. I expect DL to launch the same route or from ATL in due time too.
    Obviously the route won’t be really profitable but very prestigious for KQ.

    Financially the airline is doing better than it was in 2016. Business class will probably be full but price sensitive people will probably still transit via the gulf or europe.

  18. @AJO

    I believe KQ1 is reserved for the aircraft carrying the President.

    KQ shuttles the President on long haul routes

  19. Airlines do not fall into financial trouble because they’re missing a wonderful nameplate route to serve. Nor do they get out of financial trouble because they add an interesting route.

    KQ’s (and many other similar state airlines’) problems are long in the making, and come from running a fleet inefficiently, suffering from political interference in operational decisionmaking, and high costs.

    Their decision to add a hard-to-profit route at the limit of the aircraft service envelope is a pride/ego move to be able to say they serve the US nonstop, and I predict it will be withdrawn after a year of hard experience shows it to be commercially untenable. It will follow Malaysian, Thai, and many other (may I also dare say more competently run) airlines who have tried this and had to take it back.

  20. Kenya Attracts at least 100K tourists per year from the US only who comes to visit the Best rated maasai mara game park and white sandy beaches. Also bearing in mind the international guests from UN related bodies in kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and somalia that comes from the USA. I guess this this is a venture that is worth a try and even if the passenger route will not make for KQ may be cargo route as the US takes alot of fresh flowers from Nbo

  21. As someone with a huge bulk of Flying Blue miles, this new route makes me very happy so long as AF properly prices it for award tickets. Currently awards from say JNB to NYC via ATL on DL are priced at 40K miles. Let’s hope it’s the same or cheaper once FB loads in the inventory since KQ also uses the Flying Blue program for award tickets.

  22. EDIT : Flying Blue has the new flight loaded in and it’s at the 40K mile pricepoint. Surcharges are quite high just like AF and KL (267.92 Euros for the direct NBO-JFK). Might still be better to just stick with DL’s flight from JNB to ATL with lower taxes and fees. Though for me wanting to go to South Africa, booking KQ means you can add in a connection to say CPT for not much more whereas Delta only goes to JNB.

  23. As an expat living in Nairobi this is really good as a direct flight is always better than having to go though AMS or CDG. Let’s hope they can make this route work for some time as KQ has canceled routes that haven’t worked after a few months.

  24. According to the CEO of KQ (article in the link below) they are expecting this route to bump their revenue by at least 10% if for East Africans this router will reduce travel time as from Nairobi you can fly with an hr to Dar, Entebbe, Bujumbura and Kigali.

  25. This is HUGE for safari fans in the US. I’ve gone through LHR and AMS 5 times to Kenya or Tanzania and the layovers, especially coming home, are ridiculous (Long enough to get a day room, shower and take a 4 hour nap and still have time to do duty free shopping). The other plus is the arrival time. Getting there mid-morning gives you a chance to get out to your ultimate safari destination on arrival day from NBO and not need an overnight in Nairobi like flying both BA and KLM require since they get in so late.

  26. KQ has not been a parastatial organisation since the mid-nineties when shares were sold to, among others, a number of banks, the Kenya Government (at that time 48ish% I remember) and a number of private shareholders. KLM hold just under 10%.

    The airline grew to profitability under the oversight of among others, Brian Presbury (CFO – formerly of a large UK telecommunications organisation). Sadly, in recent years the airline suffered extensive losses as it grew to overcapacity. In an effort to turn things around the former CEO of LOT was bought in and a new chairman put in place, the former CEO of Safaricom, one of the world’s most successful and fast-growing brands (think of the economy-changing ‘MPESA’ – it was Michael Joseph’s baby).

    IMHO KQ delivers excellent service in the air, almost without exception. Ok, I am a Brit who also speaks some of the local languages of Kenya and doing this often results in a little extra attention from the crew, but both Y and C have good products.

    The ground service is another matter… but that is more a cultural issue than anything else and is similar across most airlines operating in the region.

    I will say that for any service issues, their twitter account seems to be the best way to get attention and assistance. I once was in a bad mood about how long I had to wait at check-in and tweeted a grumpy tweet… within 10 mins the airport manager had found me hiding in a corner of the Simba lounge and offered a full apology.

    JFK is the logical choice due to connectivity and also reprotection options to other carriers in case of irrops.

    Ok, said my piece… just one thing about the London airports (@The nice Paul)…

    – Stansted will never be used by Legacy carriers as there are no irrops invol reroute options from the airport due to the limited use by IATA carriers so thats a no-go (CO tried it some time ago but had to have a fleet of busses on standby in case they needed to shuttle people to LHR to invol RR the pax)

    – Gatwick – a great airport but fewer IATA carriers there too – plus far more limited transport options from the rest of the UK than LHR

    – LHR… come on – it’s not that bad… especially since the refit to T2 and T1… It is nothing like the mayhem of 10 years back…

    Greets to all and happy landings…

    Ps. Visit Kenya – it will take your heart… 🙂

  27. Agreed. Just came back from Kenya (I am born and bred there, but not a black African BUT an African nonetheless. The people are always great to me. I feel it in the heart (hard for a man to say or verbalize these things….I don’t know..ask a woman…they are better at this). The return flight was from NBO-AMS, then AMS-JFK.
    The KQ from NBO-AMS was great. The food was pretty good. Of course the fish entree was the best. The nice flight attendants were very nice too, well dressed, the red suits them very well. The ladies are well turned out, lipstick and everything. The men are handsome guys, a little haughty, but lighten up when spoken to in Kiswahili. Professional all the way.
    However and this is a BIG however….the seats are awful in coach. They recline and it is hard to sleep on a 7,5 hour flight. On a 15.5 hour flight it would be a huge problem.

    The fares? Hmmmm, they seem to be having a premium of $300 over KLM or AF. So not too bad.

  28. Just to let everyone know, you cannot book on OR get miles or MQMs on Delta using the Non-stop flight. However, I have noted that as of today, they are including a non-stop from NBO-JFK and a connecting flight through CDG or AMS on KLM.


    New York (JFK) to Nairobi (NBO) — Wed, Jan 16
    Overnight flight
    Kenya Airways 3
    Dep: 12:25 pm
    Arr: 10:55 am
    14h 30m
    Boeing 787
    Economy (V)
    Thu, Jan 17
    Nairobi (NBO) to New York (JFK) — Thu, Jan 31
    Long layoverOvernight flight

    Nairobi (NBO) to Amsterdam (AMS) — Thu, Jan 31
    KLM 566
    Dep: 11:59 pm
    Arr: 6:30 am
    8h 31m
    Boeing 747
    Economy (V)
    Layover in AMS
    Fri, Feb 1
    10h 40m

    Amsterdam (AMS) to New York (JFK) — Fri, Feb 1
    KLM 643
    Dep: 5:10 pm
    Arr: 7:30 pm
    8h 20m
    Boeing 787
    Economy (V)
    15,131 total miles
    Airport Information
    New York John F Kennedy International (JFK)
    Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International (NBO)
    Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS)
    Cost per passenger (including taxes & fees)
    Total cost for 1 passenger
    How to buy this ticket
    Tickets cannot be purchased directly from ITA Software.
    Provide this information to a travel agent to help them match the fares found.
    Make sure to provide the exact booking and fare codes shown.
    Fare for 1 adult
    Fare 1: Carrier KQ VPRUS NYC to NBO (rules)
    Passenger type ADT, round trip fare, booking code V
    Covers JFK-NBO (Economy)
    Fare 2: Carrier KL VNVL03M2 NBO to NYC (rules)
    Passenger type ADT, round trip fare, booking code V
    Covers NBO-AMS (Economy), AMS-JFK (Economy)
    KQ YR surcharge (YR)
    US International Departure Tax (US)
    US September 11th Security Fee (AY)
    US Passenger Facility Charge (XF)
    Netherlands Passenger Service Charge (RN)
    Netherlands Security Service Charge (CJ)
    US Immigration Fee (XY)
    US Customs Fee (YC)
    KL YR surcharge (YR)
    US International Arrival Tax (US)
    Kenya Passenger Airport Service Charge International (TU)
    Subtotal per passenger
    Number of passengers
    Subtotal For 1 adult
    This ticket is non-refundable.
    Changes to this ticket will incur a penalty fee.
    Fare Construction (can be useful to travel agents)
    NYC KQ NBO 143.00VPRUS KL X/AMS KL NYC M 109.50VNVL03M2 NUC 252.50 END ROE 1.00 XT 5.65YC 7.00XY 3.96XA 36.60US 5.60AY 50.00TU 7.50CJ 6.90RN 468.00YR 4.50XF JFK4.50
    Total Airfare & Taxes
    Email this itinerary
    Print this page
    NOTE: Tickets cannot be purchased directly from ITA Software.
    Contact your travel agent, the airline, or another booking service to purchase tickets.
    Legal notice: Search results provided are the property of ITA Software, Inc. and may be protected by trademark, copyright, patent and other laws. Any use of the search results is governed by our Terms of Use Policy and End–User License. © 1999–2014 ITA Software by Google.

  29. I am thrilled to have just booked this route on my way to Ethiopia a few days after its inaugural next November. Here is hoping KQ doesn’t change their mind.

  30. Kenya Airways May Add as Many as 20 New Routes in Five Years

    Interesting that the plane to operate the route will be taken back from Oman. Talking route expansion plan to the board and route partnership with SAA. Guess long haul routes are wide open since we won’t be seeing AirZims 777s anytime soon.

  31. I am thinking booking for the first KQ New York Oct.flight with excitement..then to Dallas. We pray and hope that our Pride of Africa will win the customers by even slashing their fares to win more.

  32. Your Sky Team member congratulates KQ for daring to take the bold step of( resuming) the long forgotten PANAM USA route of 60s/70s thus New York.. Monrovia ..Nairobi!

    KQ your yesterdays 14/5NBI- Amsterdam KL1117 that was full in capacity had a very very soft landing at Schipol .A wonderful safe experience!.

  33. Lets hope this takes off. That being said, KQ is now playing with the big boys. While I am eager to support the National Airline, the ratings by passengers on KQ is dismal and does not meet the bar of an International Airline. Therefore, I will wait on my flights to Kenya and prefer to go the JFK-AMS-NBO route until I see an improvement

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *