Nairobi — Kenya Airways on Monday announced its expansion into China through code share agreement signed with China Eastern Airlines, a partnership that will boost the national carrier's expansion into the Far East.
The agreement provides a framework for China Eastern Airlines to market and sell Kenya Airways' flights from Shanghai and vice versa for Kenya Airways.
"Kenya Airways seeks to strengthen its presence in China by offering better connection options to its passengers from Africa and our association with China Eastern Airlines gives us an opportunity to offer our customers a seamless connection to and from China," Kenya Airways CEO Dr. Titus Naikuni said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
Under the agreement between Kenya Airways and China Eastern Airlines, KQ will code share on daily services between Bangkok and Shanghai, while China Eastern Airlines will code share on daily Kenya Airways service between Bangkok and Nairobi.
The East African nation's carrier announced early this year that it will increase its destinations to China from the current two to six as it seeks to tap into the growing passenger and cargo travel between China and Africa.
Kenya Airways currently flies directly from Nairobi to Hong Kong and Guangzhou.
"Our plan is to increase these destinations to six and then increase the frequencies of the two routes because the passenger demand is adequate," Titus Naikuni, the CEO of Kenya Airways, told Xinhua in April.
Naikuni said passenger and cargo business between Africa and China is one of the factors that will drive the growth of the airline.
"There is the obvious big shift as engagement between Africa and the East, rather than the west is growing faster. We are positioning ourselves to take advantage of the emerging travel needs," he said.
The code share agreement with China Eastern Airlines is expected to open up the Shanghai market through Kenya Airways' Bangkok operations.
Besides giving passengers a wider choice of options for travel, the code share agreements also provide an opportunity for the airline to expand its global operations without necessarily flying its equipment to all the destinations.
Trade between Africa and China has grown exponentially in the last ten years making China, Africa's biggest trading partner among other continental blocs.
For example, in 2008, China surpassed the U.S. as Africa's biggest trading partner as the bilateral trade grew from 10.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2000 to 163 billion dollars in 2011, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
In March, Kenya Airways introduced a 120 ton cargo plane that will fly from Kenya to China, to cater for increasing need for air cargo transport between the two destinations.
Kenya Airways is a member of the Sky Team, an alliance of several airlines that code-share that include the China Airlines, China Eastern and China Southern.
Naikuni said the membership to that alliance has helped it extend its reach in China making it one of the most competitive African airlines flying to the Chinese destinations.