Africa: India’s national airline set to start direct flights to Nairobi
Air India, the national carrier of India, is set to resume direct flights between Mumbai and Nairobi from September 27.
Indian High Commissioner to Kenya Rahul Chhabra disclosed that the flights are expected to shore up trade and connectivity between the two countries.
“I am excited to announce that Air India is launching direct flights between Mumbai and Nairobi on September 27, that also coincides with World Tourism Day.”
“This will improve trade between Kenya and India and is a testimony that India attaches great significance to the people of Kenya,” added Mr Chhabra.
Air India used to operate directly between India and Kenya but later abandoned its operations.
The airline is expected to fly four times a week and will cut the time used to travel from between 10 and 11 hours to six hours.
This will save hours spent on flights that usually involve long layovers in Dubai, Middle East.
Trade between India and Kenya is estimated at $2 billion annually.
Some of the key sectors of the economies that are expected to greatly benefit from the Mumbai-Nairobi direct flights include tourism, agriculture, health and pharmaceuticals as well as education.
A huge number of Kenyans travel to India mostly for medical reasons, such as cancer treatment, transplant surgery and joint replacement.
India is one of the most popular destinations for medical travel, with low travel fares and more affordable treatment options.
The Indian government also offers 400 fully-funded scholarships to Kenyan students yearly to study in various institutions of higher learning.
Data released in January by Tourism CS Najib Balala showed that India ranked among the top five markets for tourist international arrivals in Kenya.
Last November, Kenya Airways started its maiden direct flights from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to New York City, US, in a historic flight in Kenya’s aviation industry.
Achievement of this milestone has not come easy for the Kenyan airline. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) imposes stringent conditions on African airports for clearance to fly directly to the US. Normal flights from Kenya to the US take up to 22 hours for the 11,849km between Nairobi and New York.
But passengers now save up to seven hours, as the flights take 15 hours.