The government of Kenya has delayed issuing licenses to thirty-five airlines which wish to increase their frequencies to Nairobi, as it moves to protect Kenya Airways (KQ, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta), reports The East African. As previously reported, the government also recently withdrew a license granted to Emirates (EK, Dubai Int'l) to increase its weekly frequencies on the Dubai Int'l-Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta route to twenty-one per week.

The protectionist move has been defended by Kenya's Transport Ministry Principal Secretary Irungu Nyakera. "We need to protect the Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta hub specifically for KQ. Increasing the frequency of other airlines to the Nairobi hub is only hurting the national carrier," Nyakera said. He also made comparisons to the Gulf carriers, saying that the growth of Emirates, Etihad Airways (EY, Abu Dhabi Int'l) and Qatar Airways (QR, Doha Hamad Int'l) is down to government subsidies.

Kenya Airlines last year suffered a net loss of KES26.2 billion (USD253 million), its fourth annual loss in a row. Its largest shareholders are the Kenyan Government (29.8%) and Air France-KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (26.7%). As part of plans to return to profit, Kenya Airlines is looking to lay-off 600 employees and last year disposed of its unwanted B777-200(ER), B777-300(ER) and B787-8 fleets.

Nairobi airport has a weekly capacity of over 90,000 passengers, with more than 50% of those flying with Kenya Airways. The next top airlines – Fly540 (5H, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta), Emirates (EK, Dubai Int'l), Ethiopian Airlines (ET, Addis Ababa), and Jambojet (JM, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta) – each take around 5% of the market for a total of 20%. Emirates is the leader on the Nairobi-Dubai route with a 66.5% market share, ahead of Kenya Airways' 33.5%.