Kenya Airways (KQ, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta) has moved into a market gap left my stricken South African Airways (SA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) by operating direct freighter services out of SAA’s hub in Johannesburg O.R. Tambo to Southern African destinations. Previously, all Kenya Airways traffic departing from Johannesburg had to pass through the Kenyan flag carrier’s Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta hub.

The airline said in a statement that it planned to operate directly from Johannesburg to Maputo, Harare Int'l, Lilongwe, Lusaka, and Dar es Salaam. According to the cargo flight schedule published on its website, the first freighter flight, KQ2775, from Johannesburg departed for Lusaka and onto Lilongwe on November 25. Another cargo flight, KQ2742, routed from Johannesburg to Maputo back to Nairobi on November 26.

The airline has two B737-300(F)s in its fleet: 5Y-KQC (msn 29088) and 5Y-KQD (msn 29750). It also makes use of bellyhold capacity on its passenger fleet of two B737-700s (inactive), eight B737-800s, nine B787-8s, and fifteen ERJ 190-100ARs.

Kenya Airways said the direct services from Johannesburg enabled it to provide shorter and direct flights to and from Southern African locations from Africa’s largest manufacturing economy.

Kenya Airways simultaneously launched a weekly direct freighter service with KQ332 from Mombasa to Sharjah in the UAE on November 25 thereby creating a direct cargo link between Kenya’s coastal region and the United Arab Emirates.

“Our customers truck seafood and vegetables from Mombasa and Malindi to Nairobi, taking up to 12 hours to come and connect out of Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta for freight that should only take four-to-five hours to the UAE. So we thought, why not take our aircraft directly to the coast to uplift the cargo,” explained Dick Murianki, Director of Kenya Airways Cargo in a video statement on social media. “We want to be a bridge between our coastal region and the UAE and other regions. We’re not limiting ourselves to the UAE. We are not anchored in Nairobi. Yes, it is our main hub, but we want to grow our (cargo) business. We mean business in Southern Africa and we mean business in cargo,” he said.

Murianki said the carrier had strategically increased its focus on cargo operations in order to generate more income from freight during the past months of the COVID-19 crisis. “Kenya Airways has been implementing different strategies to boost its revenues and retain a competitive edge in the market, all geared towards a turnaround of the business,” he said.