After a nine-year absence, Brussels Airlines will again fly to the Kenyan capital Nairobi in June. To do so, it will deploy a new aircraft, an Airbus A330, now the airline’s tenth long-haul aircraft. It will also increase the number of flights to the Rwandan capital, Kigali, from five to seven a week.
The ramping up of the fleet and destinations is typical of the hurrah mood again reigning among European and international airlines after years of drastic cuts due to the coronavirus epidemic.
The hub to Africa within the Lufthansa Group
The flight to Nairobi will operate six times a week in the summer season, while in the winter, there will be four flights a week. For Brussels Airlines CEO Dorothea von Boxberg, that tenth aircraft is “a clear sign of confidence from the Lufthansa Group and strengthens our position as the hub to Africa within the group”.
Between 2002 and 2015, Nairobi was already part of the network. That connection was discontinued because the airline wanted to focus on Western Africa. But the company now sees an apparent increase in demand for tickets to Kenya, partly due to strong population growth.
Kenya is known for its natural beauty, but apart from tourists, it attracts more business people who want to visit the so-called “Silicon Savannah”. Nairobi has become a significant center for innovative start-ups in the broader region.
In addition, Brussels Airlines is also planning additional flights to Dakar, Banjul, Monrovia, and Freetown during the winter period. Those West African destinations are already in the network. With this expansion, Brussels Airlines now has 18 destinations in Sub-Saharan Africa, the highest ever for the company.
Along with this extra capacity, the airline recruits 60 additional pilots and cabin crew. Other jobs will also be created among the airline’s ground staff.
More passengers for Brussels Airport
That positive vibe can also be observed at Brussels Airport. The airport in Zaventem saw nearly 4,6 million passengers pass through in July and August, up 5% compared to 2022. That number is slowly approaching the 5,4 million passengers recorded during the two months of holidays in 2019.
In August, 2 260 496 passengers passed through Zaventem airport, up 5% from August 2022. The five most visited countries last month were Spain, Turkey, Greece, Germany, and Italy. There were an average of 148 passengers per flight, three more than in August 2022, thanks to larger aircraft and a higher load factor per flight.
Most other EU airports also have nice summer
Other European airports and airlines also experienced a good summer, even if some countries remain lagging and punctuality has deteriorated compared to before the health crisis – average flight delays rose by 4%, and 66% of aircraft arrived less than 15 minutes after the scheduled time.
Between June and August, 93% of the flights in the same quarter of 2019 passed through European airspace, Eurocontrol, the European air traffic control body, announced. On average, there were 32 495 flights per day, of which the most active day was 7 July, with 34 637 flights. This is still 7% lower than the absolute record of 28 June 2019, before the health crisis, with 37 228 flights.
Germany not yet at full capacity
Driven by transatlantic journeys with a stopover, Icelandic airports saw 116,2% more passengers pass through in July than in the same month of 2019, followed by Croatian (115,7%) and Greek (114,8) facilities, with the record, on lower volumes, being held by Albania (216,6%).
At the back of the pack are Finland (69%), a victim of its proximity to Russian airspace, which has been closed to European airlines since the start of the war in Ukraine, Slovenia (72,6%), and Bulgaria (77,1%).
German airports are still far from recovering their pre-health crisis passenger numbers, at 80,8% of July 2019 levels. Other major comparable air markets, such as France and the UK, are performing better at 93,4% and 95,3%, respectively, of passengers four years ago.
New Istanbul Airport doing well
Turkey is at 106,5%, while the recently opened giant Istanbul airport also welcomed 116,5% of travelers compared to July 2019. This puts it second in the ACI Europe rankings, behind London-Heathrow but ahead of Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam-Schiphol.
Airports specializing in low-cost airlines, such as Memmingen in southern Germany (106%), Beauvais in the north of Paris (146,8%), and Charleroi in Belgium (110,4%) also benefited substantially from increased passenger traffic. However, the latter has also come under pressure due to Brussels Airlines’ démarches.
According to the leading international airline association, Iata, by 2023, global air transport should be almost back to the number of passengers before the health crisis, at 4,35 billion compared with 4,53 billion in 2019. These preliminary figures also augur well for third-quarter financial results for the airlines, which, after suffering some 183 billion dollars in cumulative losses between 2020 and 2022, should be generally back in the black this year.