British billionaire Richard Branson’s airline Virgin Atlantic will withdraw operations between Nairobi and London in September this year.
The airline attributed this to increasing costs and challenging economic environments during the past five years both in Kenya and Europe.
Branson hinted at a conference in Nairobi last year that the airline was losing money on its London-Nairobi route. He, however, still expressed confidence in Kenya as an investment destination and went on to announce he would invest in a luxury camp in a new reserve next to the Maasai Mara game park.
“We have taken the difficult decision to withdraw our services between Nairobi and London. Despite the best efforts of our employees, external factors including the high price of fuel, increasing aviation taxes in the UK and insufficient passenger numbers throughout the past five years have contributed to the decision,” said Julie Southern, chief commercial officer for Virgin Atlantic.
Virgin Atlantic launched its Nairobi operations in 2007 making the city its fourth African destination. At the time Branson described Nairobi as an important city with nearly 500,000 people flying in every year for business as well as to sample Kenya’s tourism destinations.
Since Virgin Atlantic launched in 2007, British Air Passenger Duty has risen by over 100% and fuel costs have increased by more than 50%.
“These are still challenging times for the airline industry and we have to deploy our aircraft to routes with the right level of demand to be financially viable,” said Southern.