Israeli airline Arkia will take longer to begin direct flights to Nairobi because the carrier lacks a plane to deploy on the route it stopped plying in 2003.
The Israeli embassy in Nairobi said that direct flights between Nairobi and Tel Aviv, initially set to begin in August 2016, may mean Arkia closing one of its routes in order to fly to Kenya.
“This is still in the pipeline…it’s just a question of when. Arkia being a company with a small fleet needs to check which route they would sacrifice to sample out the Kenya route,” said Israeli ambassador to Kenya Yahel Vilan in an interview. Arkia Israel Airlines has a fleet of seven aircraft which fly to 30 destinations, mostly in Europe.
Arkia’s twin destinations in Africa are Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar in Tanzania. The promise to restart direct flights was made in July last year when Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu visited Kenya.
Tel Aviv had also pegged the resuming of flights to Nairobi on Kenya beefing up security and upgrading surveillance at major airports.
Direct flights between Israel and Kenya were stopped following a November 2002 terrorist attack on an Arkia plane with 261 passengers onboard, shortly after taking off from Moi International Airport, Mombasa.
The attack was not successful. On the same day however, suspected Al-Qaeda suicide bombers attacked the Israeli-owned Paradise hotel in Kikambala, Kilifi county, killing about 15 people.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Moi airport have since undergone major upgrades to boost security screening for passengers and cargo.