Congo Airways (8Z, Kinshasa N'Djili) has wet-leased two E190s from Kenya Airways (KQ, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta) as a first step in the implementation of the strategic partnership between the two carriers agreed upon in April 2021.

5Y-FFM (msn 19000431) and 5Y-FFL (msn 19000418) were ferried from Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta to Kinshasa N'Djili on September 15 and 16, respectively. Both had been active across Kenya Airways' network through September 10-11. They have yet to be deployed into revenue service on behalf of Congo Airways, Flightradar24 ADS-B data shows.

Kenya Airways said in a press statement the aircraft would be used to boost domestic frequencies within the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Congo Airways confirmed to ch-aviation that the wet-lease contract was a long-term one and could possibly expand to three E190s.

"The Government has reduced fares on domestic routes. The demand became high and Congo Airways needs more capacity," Director (Cooperation and Cargo) Norbert Sengamali Lukukwa told ch-aviation.

The two wet-leased Embraer jets will join Congo Airways' in-house fleet of two DHC-8-Q400s and two A320-200s. While they mark the beginning of E190 operations under Congo Airways' code, they are a prelude to future developments for the airline which has two E190-E2s and two E195-E2s on firm order from the Brazilian manufacturer. The E190-E1s are scheduled to deliver in December 2021 and May 2022, while the larger units will deliver in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Short of equity investment, the strategic partnership established earlier this year foresees close commercial and operational cooperation between the carriers. Besides the lease of the two E190s, Kenya Airways also launched scheduled cargo flights between Lubumbashi in the southern DRC and Johannesburg O.R. Tambo. The two airlines will also codeshare on Kenya Airways' cargo network.

"The timing of this agreement is correct, considering the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation industry, as it will increase the utilisation of our aircraft... Cargo has provided new opportunities in the face of the pandemic, and we are keen to continue building our operations and leveraging partnerships," Kenya Airways Chief Executive Allan Kilavuka said.