Air France KLM, one of Europe’s leading airline groups, has set its sights on expanding further in Africa as the continent’s travel demand continues to grow. Executives at the company emphasized that Africa is a strategic priority and highlighted the significant potential for expansion in the region.
During the opening ceremony of their new regional office in Nairobi, Marius van der Ham, the regional manager for East and Southern Africa, Ghana, and Nigeria, expressed optimism about the opportunities in Kenya specifically, stating, “We believe there is more potential to be grabbed especially here in Kenya.”
The African region currently ranks as the fifth largest in Air France KLM’s network of 12 regional operations, following North America, Greater China, Korea, and Japan, according to van der Ham.
In response to the rising demand, the airline has already increased capacity on its Nairobi-Europe flights by 14% this year. Prior to the pandemic, there was a daily flight to Amsterdam and five weekly flights to Paris from Nairobi. However, the company now operates two daily flights to both Amsterdam and Paris.
To cater to the peak summer travel season, Air France KLM is adding three flights on its Paris-Johannesburg route, anticipating higher demand. Additionally, the group has introduced new flights between Paris and Dar es Salaam in neighbouring Tanzania.
Zoran Jelkic, a senior vice president for long haul, reiterated the strategic importance of Africa for the group, although no specific investment amount was disclosed for the expansion plans.
While Air France KLM faces competition from African carriers like Ethiopian Airlines, Gulf carriers such as Emirates, and other European operators like British Airways, the company remains optimistic about the African travel market’s potential.
However, operating in these markets presents challenges, including shortages of hard currencies in some economies. These currency constraints make it difficult for airlines to repatriate their earnings, as noted by industry executives.
As Air France KLM increases its presence in Africa, it seeks to navigate these challenges while capitalizing on the continent’s growing travel demand, aiming to further cement its position as a key player in the region’s aviation industry.