Following the acquisition of the B767-200F from Air Transport Services Group, Inc. in October 2020, Astral Aviation will deploy the freighter on the Nairobi – Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (UAE) route, with effect from 3rd February 2021, thus offering unrivalled capacity for 80 tonnes per week of flowers and vegetables to the UAE.
Astral will also upgrade the B767-200F on its Nairobi – Johannesburg route which it currently operates on the B727-200F thus increasing the total capacity to 160 tonnes per week to South Africa. The freighter will also offer capacity on high-priority for the distribution of the Covid vaccine to and within Africa in addition to humanitarian cargo.
Marking the launch of the B767 freighter in Nairobi on 22 January 2021, Astral Aviation CEO, Sanjeev Gadhia re-iterated that the newly-acquired freighter will complement the existing fleet by providing new opportunities in the 40-tonnes category which was previously underserved in Africa. The B767F is ideal for Astral’s intra-African network, which comprises 15 scheduled destinations while offering new opportunities to the Middle East, which is an important gateway for East Africa’s air imports and exports.
The Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Kenya, Mr James Macharia, congratulated Astral Aviation on its achievement. The freighter’s induction to the Astral fleet also marks an important milestone for the aviation industry as it recovers from the effects of the pandemic, which led to an 8% decline in cargo volumes in 2020 in Kenya. The Cabinet Secretary re-affirmed the commitment of his government to invest optimally in the country’s transport system and to maintain Kenya’s position as the transport hub of the region by outlining plans to modernize and expand aviation facilities.
The acting managing director of the Kenya Airports Authority, Mr Alex Gitari complemented Astral Aviation’s stature as the fastest growing cargo airline in the region and reaffirmed Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA)’s regional cargo hub position. JKIA in Nairobi, Kenya has a capacity of 1.2 million tonnes which includes 9,000m² of cold room facilities. It is the leading cargo hub in Africa. Therefore, in addition to reaffirming this strategic positioning, Astral Aviation’s acquisition of the B767-200F is timely in that it enhances JKIA’s cargo capacity and ability to handle transhipments of Covid-19 vaccines whose rollout is expected soon.
Also present at the launch were the chairman and director general of Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, along with the Regional Director of International Civil Aviation Organization Eastern and Southern African Office and the Secretary General of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA).
Sharjah International Airport was chosen due to its strategic location as well as the services it provides in accordance with the highest international standards. These include facilities to handle temperature-controlled perishable, pharma, and healthcare cargo according to Mr Satvir Kalsi, who was recently appointed as Commercial Director for UAE, Sharjah International Airport.