Roberta Katunga, Senior Business Reporter
KENYA Airways is set to begin operating direct flights between Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Victoria Falls International Airport in May as Zimbabwe’s open skies policy begins to pay dividends.
According to the airline, the flights will commence on 18 May.
The flights to Victoria Falls will be the airline’s second destination in Zimbabwe after Harare where it operates 21 flights weekly.
Kenya Airways managing director and chief executive officer Mr Mbuvi Ngunze said the new route highlights the airline’s strategy to continue winning in the region.
“Our strategy is driven by opening up the region and ensuring our value proposition meets the demands for our customers.
We have seen increased demand for Cape Town, and had to increase our frequency in December. The route via Victoria Falls offers our guests two leisure holiday options,” said Mr Ngunze.
According to the airline, the new route between Nairobi and the newly expanded Victoria Falls Internationa Airport, will operate three times a week on Monday, Thursday and Saturday.
The flight schedule shows that the flight will depart from Nairobi at 7.20am, arriving in Victoria Falls at 9.30am, departing Victoria Falls 10.20am to arrive in Cape Town at 1.25pm. The return flight will take off from Cape Town International Airport at 2.15pm, arrive in Victoria Falls at 5.10pm and depart Victoria Falls at 6pm and touch down Nairobi 10pm.
“This will be Kenya Airways 52nd destination and will see the airline increase its operations to Cape Town from the current four, which are served via Livingstone, Zambia, to six.
This offering will see guests enjoying Victoria Falls from both the Zambian side via Livingstone and Zimbabwean side via Victoria Falls,” said Mr Ngunze.
He said the route will be operated by Embraer E190 with a configuration of 12 business class seats and 84 economy class seats.
Kenya Airways, a member of the Sky Team Alliance, carries over three million passengers annually.
Meanwhile, South African Airways is also set to bring in the biggest aircraft so far at the Victoria Falls Airport to service the Johannesburg route.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, from 1 March, SAA will be operating an Airbus A330 due to increased traffic.
In an interview, tourism operators in Victoria Falls welcomed the development saying Kenyan Airways and said this will increase inflows of tourists into the resort town.
Employers Association of Tourism and Safari Operators president Mr Clement Mukwasi said the addition of airlines like Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airline and Rainbow Airline to the Victoria Falls route meant that the country’s immigration services have to be improved to deal with increased traffic.
“One cannot fly for just more than an hour and half from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls and then spend three hours in a queue to be cleared. We need an immigration clearing system that is more efficient and faster hence the importance of embracing technology,” said Mr Mukwasi.
He said Victoria Falls is a connecting airport hence the need of high concentration of officers to clear visitors quickly.
On the side of operators, Mr Mukwasi said they had invested for this type of influx since 2013.
“Tour operators are ready and have been waiting for this type of influx for a long time, we even invested in buses, luxury vehicles and manpower development,” he said.
He, however, said they were waiting for direct flights from Europe, the Americas and Eastern bloc which are some of the country’s major source markets.