Ahead of its inaugural flight to Somalia in January 2019, Kenya’s national carrier, Kenya Airways, made a test flight to Mogadishu today, as part of routine preparations preceding the formal launch of the direct flight early next year.
The carrier has leased a 50-seater Embraer ERJ-145 jet from the regional Aircraft Leasing Services (ALS) that is expected to operate daily flights between Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Aden Adde International Airport.
“It’s an honour for me and my crew to be the people who brought in Kenya Airways into Mogadishu for the first flight. It’s been a long time waiting and it’s a good feeling to have the airline over here with a presence in Mogadishu,” said Charles Waruru, the flight test Captain.
Kenya Airways becomes the third international airline to fly the increasingly competitive Nairobi – Mogadishu route. Turkish Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines are already operating daily flights into Mogadishu, while Qatar Airlines recently announced plans to start scheduled flights to the Horn of Africa country.
“This flight is a direct flight from Nairobi to Mogadishu. It takes one hour and a half of flying time. Same way from Mogadishu to Nairobi, direct,” Captain Waruru noted.
Al-Anesi Abdulwahab, a passenger on the Kenya Airways return flight to Nairobi, said the entry of Kenya Airways would offer international air travellers a wide range of choices.
“It’s a happy moment that I am able to fly and have more than one option. And to see commercial international flights are operating from Mogadishu to Nairobi and other destinations,” remarked Abdulwahab. “I think there is a good future, more flights, more people to enjoy, good competition and more options for the people, at very good price and secure flights,” he added.
Somali government authorities have attributed the growing interest in Somalia as a destination, to the improving aviation safety and the general security situation in the country, that has boosted investor confidence, and led to the return of Somalis from the Diaspora.
Said Eliye, the Director of Operations and International Relations at the Mogadishu airport divulged that with the rising confidence in the country’s security, more international airlines are in talks to launch flights to Mogadishu in the coming years. He said Qatar Airways and commercial carriers from Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Uganda has expressed interest in operating flights to Somalia.
“We are always striving to have a safe airport as well as good service and safety. With support from AMISOM, the security has improved quite a lot,” Mr. Eliye stated. “The Airport Authority in conjunction with AMISOM have partnered to ensure there is security and safety. That is our number one priority”.
The African Union Mission in Somalia supports the Somali security forces in securing key installations in Somalia, such as the international airport and has been instrumental in the return to relative peace and normalcy in the country, after more than two-decades of civil strife and an insurgency that lasted almost a decade.