Kenya Airways new Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner made its maiden flight from Nairobi to Johannesburg this past week and was celebrated at a ceremony held in Hyde Park Johannesburg. Pictures of the ceremony can be viewed on our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.801848449855724.1073741841.196298687077373&type=3 .
The afternoon cocktail function was attended by the Chief Operating Officer Mbuvi Ngunze, Chief Marketing Officer Chris Diaz, Head of Sales Dirk Buitelaar and the Regional Operations Manager Rosemary Adogo among other members of staff.
"It gives me pride to be standing here today. It is truly a milestone for us to welcome our first Dreamliner on its maiden voyage to Johannesburg. South Africa is a key destination for us to which we fly three times daily. This is the second route for the Dreamliner which will fly as KQ762 to Joburg. The aircraft has been baptised by His Excellency President Kenyatta, The Great Rift Valley," Ngunze said.
The airline has placed a firm order of nine such aircrafts with an option of taking four more as part of its fleet modernisation and route expansion strategy. The 787-8 Dreamliner has a capacity of 250 passengers and will be used to replace the ageing 767 aircraft as well as open up new long range routes.
"The 767's will be phased out of this route by the middle of August. Our product upgrade and refleeting of our equipment is on course and by the end of the year we will have the youngest fleet in Africa," Ngunze said.
The airline also has an ambitious plan of route expansion including flights to four domestic South African destinations in partnership with Kulula Airlines of South Africa and a plan to reach every African capital by 2023.
Ngunze went on to say that the developments at the airline were being complemented by government efforts at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport where the authorities have plans to spend USD800 Million on the upgrade of facilities. Kenya Airways is set to open a new modern lounge with a capacity to handle 400 passengers.
The Rwandan High Commissioner to South Africa Vincent Karega was present. Also in attendance was the Kenya High Commissioner to South Africa Ambassador Patrick Wamoto and South African High Commissioner to Kenya Super Moloi. They both expressed optimism that the strict reciprocal visa requirements imposed on nationals of both countries will be relaxed in the near future as they are lobbying both governments to relook the process.
Ngunze echoed their sentiments. "My message is that we should be driving easier access to all our markets [in Africa] and there should be simplification of business. We feel progress is being made on this matter bearing in mind that the pace of government is much slower than in the corporate environment."
Mr. Ngunze is set to replace Dr. Titus Naikuni in December as Chief Executive Officer. He had a light comment when asked whether he felt he had big shoes to fill.
"My plans when I take over will be evidently clear when I take office in December. Dr. Naikuni has been a fantastic boss, a great mentor who has offered me great tutelage. As for his shoes, he is much taller than I am wearing so I suspect I will battle to get into his size twelves," he quipped.