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June 19, 2024
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Nairobi is the focus of new carrier activity, with South Africa’s Airlink announcing a new daily service from Johannesburg starting April 24. Meanwhile, German flag carrier Lufthansa will increase the frequency between Frankfurt and the Kenyan capital from five to seven weekly flights for the 2023 summer season, starting June 3.

Airlink, which fills the vacuum left by South African Airways’ chaotic exit from the market three years ago, becomes the first privately-owned airline to operate the Johannesburg OR Tambo – Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International sector. The airline offers flights on the route from April 24.

Airlink’s chief executive and Managing Director, Rodger Foster, said the carrier’s entry on the route complements an agreement last November. Kenya and South Africa committed to eliminating trade barriers and opening up business and cooperation between the two major economies in key sectors and markets. South Africa also reciprocated Kenya by removing visa requirements for Kenyans visiting South Africa for up to 90 days. 

“This is also an important moment for Eastern – Southern Africa connectivity.  With Airlink’s network now including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and most of the Southern Africa Development Community nations, we offer travelers the widest set of choices and convenient regional and inter-continental connections on our own aircraft and with our global carrier partners,” says Foster.  

“These enable the businesses and economies Airlink serves to expand their own respective market reach. Similarly, our competitive services will promote tourism in both markets, generating additional foreign travel spend,” added Foster.   

Kenya becomes Airlink’s 15th country in the carrier’s growing sub-Saharan Africa network, and the third in East Africa after Tanzania and Uganda. It will be served daily using a 98-seat Embraer E-190, with the outbound flight 4Z070 departing Johannesburg at 09.40, touching down four hours later at 14.45. The return flight 4Z071, will depart Nairobi at 15.45, arriving in Johannesburg at 19.05.

Airlink’s growth, in terms of frequency and reach, is putting pressure on the airline to upsize and upgauge its fleet.  Larger aircraft with longer ranges are required sooner rather than later.  This is clearly an opportunity for Embraer and its E2 family. We understand the OEM is aware of the opportunity and is keen to make progress.  Most likely, creative financing would breach any gaps.  This, in turn, is an opportunity for BRIC companies in finance and banking to step in.  Embraer now has greater flexibility with its recent Citibank deal.  This follows Brazil state development bank BNDES approval of a 2.2 billion real ($413.1m) credit line to finance Embraer’s commercial aircraft production and exports.


Meanwhile, Lufthansa has also relocated its eastern Africa passenger operations leadership to Nairobi and appointed Kevin Markette as the new General Manager for the East African region comprising Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania.

The carrier, which announced interline agreements with Airlink in 2021, increased its flights to Nairobi from five to seven, taking its weekly frequencies to Kenya to eleven flights. The additional flights from Frankfurt will arrive in Nairobi at 20:30 daily, with the return leg departing Nairobi at 22:25 local time. The Nairobi service will be in addition to the four weekly flights between Frankfurt and Mombasa operated by Lufthansa Group’s leisure carrier Eurowings Discover.

“East Africa is undoubtedly one of the most important markets for us on the continent, and our booking figures reflect that the region is particularly popular with holidaymakers from Germany and abroad. Thanks to the vast expansion of our route network on the continent, together with our Group airlines, our customers can now reach their idyllic holiday or business destinations much faster and more directly”, says Kevin Markette, General Manager East Africa, Lufthansa Group.

“Furthermore, by increasing our Lufthansa frequencies between Nairobi and Frankfurt, we are underlining the importance of Kenya for the Lufthansa Group, as well as our long-term commitment to the region. Such positive developments can only be accomplished through strong partnerships with Kenyan corporates who share a common goal and who supported and trusted us throughout the recent challenging years. Together we share the vision that East Africa still has a lot of potential for growth”, Markette said further.

author avatar
Richard Schuurman
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016. Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

1 thought on “Airlink announces Nairobi service as Lufthansa goes daily

  1. This Airlink will give Kenya Airways sleepless nights on the route that it has dominated for 3 years now

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