Kenya Airways Already Canceling Some New York Flights

Filed Under: Other Airlines

At the end of October, Kenya Airways launched daily nonstop flights between Nairobi and New York. This was a huge point of pride for both the airline and country, and I witnessed that firsthand when taking the New York to Nairobi inaugural flight.

If the goal of the route is to turn a direct profit (and it’s doubtful that’s the case), then this route is pure madness.

Could the airline profitably run a nonstop flight between Nairobi and New York using a 787? Maybe over time. Is starting the route with daily flights a smart business decision? Absolutely not, and it’s something I’ve said since the very first time I’ve written about the route.

If you actually want to build a long and thin route like New York to Nairobi sustainably, starting with daily service isn’t the way to do it. Instead, that’s a way to just run out of money.

That’s why it comes as exactly zero surprise that Kenya Airways is already reducing frequencies on this new flight. What I take serious issue with is how they’re going about canceling flights.

Daily Nation quotes a Kenya Airways official as saying the following:

“The winter schedule for all our flights took effect from Oct 28 (day of the Nairobi New York flight launch) and will run until March 30, 2019… We cancel flights that are not commercially viable, so this is not unique to this route.”

True, it’s not unique to this route to cancel flights that aren’t commercially viable. However, typically you’d think you’d want to just schedule the flight realistically to begin with.

So far Kenya Airways has canceled 10 flights on the new route between November 5 and December 5, and they’ve warned that they’ll continue to do so throughout the winter.

The issue is that they haven’t actually canceled any flights beyond early December, which suggests to me that the airline is basically canceling flights just weeks in advance as they go along, based on demand:

The daily flights schedule remains unchanged for the unaffected months, KQ said, adding that “there is no new schedule”.

“We continuously monitor performance.”

That’s a horrible way to handle this, since people will end up having their flights canceled last minute, which will create very little confidence in the route and the airline.

Many tourists going to Kenya are going on safari and have a carefully crafted trip, and arriving a day later (or having to connect through Amsterdam on KLM much later) could throw off their plans.

The Kenya Airways spokesperson said:

“It is common practice to reduce frequencies, downgrade or even upgrade flights to balance costs and revenue.

These 10 flights were identified at three weeks before the inaugural flight and travel agents plus guests were advised as per our flight cancellation procedures.”

Bottom line

As much as I want this route to succeed, I just can’t wrap my head around how anyone thinks the way they’re handling this is a good idea.

They shouldn’t have started the route with daily frequencies. Anyone could have told them that. On top of that, if they’re going to start canceling flights that aren’t “commercially viable,” the way to do that isn’t to just decide within a few weeks of departure which flights to cancel, which is a way to guarantee some people won’t fly with your airline again.

Instead they should be canceling flights they don’t intend to operate for the entire season at once, so they can better manage expectations.

I’ll be very curious to see how this route unfolds…

  1. @lucky – if you run your own airline would it have first class on it? Also, what planes would you use and where will it be based? I could imagine a Lucky Air 😉

  2. I am sure this way to handle it suits the African mindset just fine. It’s not that important whether you arrive today or tomorrow or even the day after, as long as you ultimately get there. Who would be in such a hurry that they need to arrive on a specific day? How stressful.

  3. @Lucky
    KQ cancelled some of these flights in October even before they launched the route on the 28th. At that time they said frequencies would be 5-7 weekly till Dec 5th when flights would return to daily for the busy christmas travel time. I believe i even sent you a link on twitter.

    This is a non-story. It means these flights probably weren’t even bookable in the first place not unless one booked months ago.

    I actually think that this has to do with plane availability as they should be getting their other B787 leased to Oman Air around now/December which would enable normal daily frequencies without affecting other routes – i remember reading sth about that months ago.

    Carry on.

  4. Same thing has been happening on the EWR-ABJ route that Ethiopian started running earlier this year. My outbound flight has been moved twice, once by 2 days, another time by 3 days.

  5. Having passed through Nairobi once on KQ was enough. I had the pleasure to see the luggage handling area air side. What an incredible mess. Never seen anything like it.

  6. Uh oh! I’m booked on this flight on Jan 5. Hopefully will be unaffected by this.

    @Lucky – When will we get the full KQ trip report?!? We are all eagerly awaiting. Please get on that ASAP 🙂

  7. @ Sam — Hopefully within the next week, just finishing up the previous report. Fortunately I think you should be good on January 5 since I imagine that’s still peak season for the holidays.

  8. @ Sam — Right, the issue here is that they haven’t yet canceled any flights beyond December 6. It shows daily throughout winter. Yet they say that they will be canceling some flights, which is my issue.

  9. I really want to try this route for my second safari, but I wholeheartedly agree this makes it impossible to book with confidence. I cant think of a single other TYPE of trip I’d take that is more inconvenienced by poorly thought out cancellations/scheduling than a trip to East Africa.

  10. Yet they couldn’t even honor a mistake fare for this route. Jeez. At least do it for the badly needed publicity.

  11. @Sam + @ Lucky, they’ve actually informed their top travel agents of more cancellations than the ones that have already been removed from the schedule. (For KQ, agents are still a huge source of business, so sometimes give them a bit more notice)

  12. @DC-PHLyer – So strange IMHO. If you know you are going to be canceling the flight, why not just remove it from the schedule ASAP. In the meantime people may be booking themselves onto flights that the airline has already decided to cancel and making travel plans around that. To Lucky’s point, this doesn’t seem like an ideal way to manage thinning the schedule.

  13. @Daniel from Finland

    I think you are spot on.
    Which shows why ALL airlines should make sure they understand culture at both ends of a route.
    Otherwise they are limiting their potential market significantly.

  14. My wife and I flew Kenya Airways, a few years back, in first class, only Mombasa to Nairobi , but upon boarding there were two persons in our seats . We both had same seat numbers on our boarding passes , they had got there first and I believe they were Kenyans .
    I suspect a coordinated bumping of us, the “‘European tourists for some important Kenyan nationals who were told to get on early (somehow ?) .
    The Captain came out and said ”you can move to economy or get off ”.
    No apologies or nice words .
    We moved to economy as we had a Nairobi connection to Europe , applied for a refund and NEVER received it .’
    What they did not know is that I speak Swahili and I understood what the crew and passengers were saying about us ……………I did not let on.
    There are lots of alternatives to fly to Kenya , and for me Kenya Airways is not one of them .

  15. Why people still think there is any quality or value for money flying on African airlines. They run their airlines like their countries. Ethiopian is the only airline in Africa offering semi decent service. SAA has been on a steady run down hill for 20 years

  16. Lucky. I’m an avid reader of your blog and get some valuable advice from your reviews. I even enjoy reading your comments section too. But please start monitoring and censoring some of the comments. Some of them particularly the ones from @Daniel from Finland and @ Peter Brown above become increasingly racist and reek of white privilege and does not belong on a blog dedicated to aviation and frequent flyer programs. This is not the first time I have come across this. Its really unfortunate that these readers would resort to these sort of offensive comments on a forum like this. Majority of Africans are hard working honest people. FYI.

  17. The racists comments have my jaw to the ground “they run their airlines like they run their countries” wow!! I’m Kenyan and African and this is just disgusting.
    Let’s stick to the topic at hand please

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