NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — New Boeing Dreamliners, the opening of a new terminal, and — on the horizon — Kenya's first direct flights to the United States. The chief executive of Kenya Airways is predicting an exciting couple of years for African air travel.
Only last August the arrivals terminal at Kenya's main international airport was a huge ball of fire and smoke. Putting that disaster in the past, Titus Naikuni is looking forward to an April delivery of the first of the company's six Boeing 787 Dreamliners being shipped this year.
And, mirroring a rise in local airlines seen across the continent, a Kenya Airways-owned low-cost carrier — Jambo Jet — is set to begin flights early this year. Naikuni predicts an explosion in air travel across the continent in the next decade as Africa continues to modernize.
"The thing is, when you start valuing time, you start seeing the logic behind the low-cost carrier," he said in an interview with The Associated Press. "The day everybody in Africa starts valuing time, because I don't think we value time, I think we'll see the phenomenal growth of local carriers."
International air traffic to and from Africa has been growing about 6 percent a year over the last decade, while domestic traffic has expanded an average of 12 percent a year, the African Airlines Association said in its 2013 annual report.
Air traffic has been growing most strongly around Johannesburg in South Africa, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and Nairobi. While the growth is impressive, the report noted that Africa provides only a small sliver of global profits for airlines.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport last made international news in August, when the arrivals terminal caught fire and smoldered for hours as black billows of smoke rose above. Earlier this month a small improvised explosive device detonated just outside the airport, in a restaurant trash can. Naikuni acknowledged that such events raise concerns for his customers. Somali Islamic militants have vowed to carry out attacks in Kenya.