NAIROBI – The merger between British Airways and Spain’s Iberia will result in increased access to African destinations for European and Latin American holidaymakers, BA’s chief executive said on Wednesday.
Willie Walsh said BA planned to expand operations into Africa, including taking a delivery of new aircraft in 2012 earmarked for increasing the frequency of flights into the continent.
“(The merger) is an opportunity to provide additional access from the Spanish market into Africa and Kenya will be one of the destinations that will benefit,” Walsh told reporters in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, via video link from London.
Walsh said BA would be able to build on Iberia’s existing networks, including a strong presence in Latin America, to open up the African market via Madrid and London.
“Part of the expansion will include new services from Madrid to a number of African destinations … that is an objective of the combined British Airways and Iberia company,” he said.
“We see these (new Boeing 787s) as being an excellent aircraft to serve the African market and to allow us to expand frequencies and look at new destinations in Africa.”
Extra flights in coming years will boost the region’s crucial tourism sectors, Walsh said, adding east Africa should also expect an influx of tourists both en route and returning from the football world cup in South Africa, beginning in June.
“We are forecasting a 10 percent increase in revenue for Africa this financial year, which ends March 31 2011,” said George Mawadri, BA’s Kenya commercial manager.
Tourism in Africa has suffered from the global economic downturn and Kenya, where tourism is the third largest foreign exchange earner after horticulture and tea exports, was hard hit by the country’s bloody post-election violence in early 2008.