China Southern Airlines will fly its planes into for Kenya for the first time this August. The planned three-times-a-week schedule between China and Kenya is expected to tap into the highly-sought-after East African market for the commercial Chinese airline, but for Kenya’s struggling flag carrier, this will be its biggest threat so far.

Kenya Airways had earlier launched a daily, non-stop flight through the same route in November 2013, hoping to exploit the heavily-trafficked route to boost revenue inflows. The two carriers signed a code-sharing agreement at the time, allowing the China-based airline make bookings for its local travellers through its Nairobi representatives and then transfer the passengers to Kenya Airways.

But Kenya is fast becoming a tourism hotspot for China and recent both countries reached an agreement to boost cooperation within the sector. The newly-launched China Southern Airlines sees this move as an opportunity to ramp up its business in Africa.

Kenya Airways, however, has been on a losing streak since 2014. The airline posted a loss of more Sh10 billion ($120 million) for 2014, and is currently seeking loans to pay employees. Though it has complained that a huge portion of its losses were a result of cancelled flights to West Africa due to Ebola.

West African countries like Sierra Leone and Guinea – two of three most affected by the epidemic – were lucrative markets for the Kenyan airline.

The arrival of the Chinese airline, however, will prove the biggest threat to Kenya Airways already suffering business.


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