Kenya Airways Wants To Start Flying To New York In May 2017

Filed Under: Other Airlines

In today’s installment of “routes that will never make money but may still be launched for prestige reasons,” Kenya Airways plans to launch flights between Nairobi and New York as of May 2017. At least that’s what’s being reported by Daily Nation:

Flights from Nairobi to New Yorkā€™s John F. Kennedy Airport will be launched in early May.

This is after Kenya Airways formally requested the US federal aviation department for a licence to fly directly to the US.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia told the Nation that the application was presented at the US Embassy in Nairobi.

Now, the claim is that Kenya Airways has requested the right to operate U.S. service with the Department of Transportation, but there are no public records of such a filing. Furthermore, route applications aren’t presented in person at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi; that’s not how it works. šŸ˜‰

Regardless, it does sound like this route will be requested shortly, and that Kenya Airways is serious about launching it.

In late February the Federal Aviation Administration granted Kenya a Category 1 rating under their International Aviation Safety Assessment, which is required in order for an airline to launch flights to the U.S. Up until that point flights to the U.S. weren’t even possible nonstop for Kenya Airways, though now they have the right to operate such a route.

Nairobi to New York covers a distance of 7,360 miles. In theory that’s a distance that can be covered nonstop using a 787. However, the airport is also at an altitude of 5,300+ feet, so I’m not sure if that would impact the takeoff performance enough to mean that a fuel stop or weight restriction would be required.


While the route would certainly be cool to see, I’m surprised Kenya Airways is even trying this. The airline is in a horrible financial situation, having recently recording their worst ever results. The airline has started dumping some of their 787s since they can’t afford to fly them, so Oman Air is leasing some of the planes.


Turning a profit on an ultra longhaul flight is challenging, let alone for an airline in Kenya Airways’ financial situation. So I’m a bit surprised to see that they’re willing to launch such a prestige route at a time where they’re under pressure to improve their financial results.

That being said, this ultimately isn’t surprising. They were just granted their Category 1 rating, and they can’t help themselves. I’ve been wanting to review Kenya Airways, so if this route does in fact come to fruition, you can bet I’ll be taking it soon. However, I’d be very surprised if it launches as soon as May.

Do you think Kenya Airways will follow through on launching flights between Nairobi and New York?

  1. With a successful turnaround strategy currently at it’s 65%success. What will matter is number of frequencies.. ROYAL AIR MOROC Stated Nairobi route transiting 20pax from Us and are now past 100pax. Sub-lease to Oman air and Turkish is almost due in a year time therefore fleet size is guranteed in long run.

  2. Nairobi is the most stable area in East Africa right now with all of the turmoil going on in Ethiopia. I work for a NGO that does a lot of work in Africa and we’re moving most of our conferences and meetings to Nairobi and bringing in lots of people from the U.S. right now our best option is Ethiopian Air, having a direct flight from the U.S. to Nairobi would be incredibly helpful.

  3. They have had a solid business case for this flight dating back a decade or more. It has been delayed multiple times for a variety of reasons such as the safety audits, security situation and shareholder veto (AF-KLM). They already sell a large volume of tickets from the region to North America via Amsterdam and Paris, so being able to route these via JFK with onward Skyteam distribution on Delta would give them a higher prorate of the fares. It may not work out in the long run, but it’s definitely not a vanity route.

  4. There was talk about Ethiopian making its way to Miami or Houston. Have you heard any updates about this?

  5. If more of us went on a safari instead of playing with ducks in gold plated bath tubs, the animals would not be shot and killed.

    Maybe Kenya airways is saying, liberals we know your hypocrisy

  6. I work for a travel company in South Africa, and a lot of our US clients want to go on East African safaris. Currently they need to transit through Europe, or worse, Johannesburg, in order to get there. This route could shave off a lot of travel time for them.

  7. How does it work with regards to landing slots when launching new service to a slot limited airport? Does the airline starting service have to buy a slot from another airline or does the agency that manages the allocation just squeeze them in?

  8. This route may actually be sought by minority ower KLM and could be a request made in closed door negotiations by another interested investor or contract party.

  9. @Rich why wouldn’t the ex-US pax take one of the ME3 to NBO instead of transiting via Johensburg?

    I fly ORD-NBO two to three times a year and usually take TK or one of the ME3. Wouldn’t even think of taking SA and transiting via South Africa.

  10. I have flown US – Nbo (through Europe) over 50 times. And there are tons of Americans coming into Nairobi every day. Many of the flights Nairobi – Europe seem to have close to 50% US travelers. A direct flight Nairobi to the US would be an easy decision. Delta has also been invovled getting this going for a number of years. I’d expect a NBO-ATL flight pretty soon.

  11. Can’t wait for this to happen. Despite being owned 24 percent by AF-KLM, Kenya Airways (KQ) is a great airline. They still serve snacks and a drink on domestic 30 minute flights. They are extremely polite. Service is what sets them apart, although they are not as good as they used to be. I was travelling with my children on a domestic KQ flight and we were waiting at the wrong gate. An emplyee actually came up to us and told us that our flight was boarding, and that because we had small children we should go to the front of the line. He escorted us and no other passengers complained. They still accommodate children and are happy to see them, and like most places around the world, except at major US international airports, the luggage carts are free.

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