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Lesser known airlines that fly into Kenya

Kenya has long attracted major international airlines due to the country’s economic strength in the region and the status of Nairobi as a hub for multinational corporate and non-governmental organizations (such as the UN).

The big foreign airlines are very familiar to most Kenyans: Emirates, British Airways, KLM, Ethiopian Airlines, all come to mind. However, there are several lesser known airlines that regularly fly into Kenyan airports.

This article looks at some of the less well known airlines that fly into Nairobi’s JKIA and Mombasa’s Moi International Airport. Please let us know if there are any other airlines that could fit in this category

Air Austral

Air Austral is a French airline based on the island of Réunion, which lies east of Madagascar. Air Austral does not operate regular flights to Nairobi but its Boeing 777 aircraft often make stopovers on the way to France.

An Air Austral Boeing 777-300ER.

An Air Austral Boeing 777-300ER.

Air Austral was created in December 1974 and was Réunion’s first commercial airline. The airline operates about eight aircraft including three Boeing 777-300ER and one Boeing 777-200LR. Air Austral operates scheduled services from Réunion to France, South Africa, Thailand, India and a number of destinations in the Indian Ocean.


Neos is an Italian airline that operates leisure flights to Mombasa with Boeing 767-300ER aircraft.

A Neos Boeing 767-300ER.

A Neos Boeing 767-300ER.

From its hub in Italy, Neos flies to other destinations in Africa, southern Europe, Russia, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Neos was formed in June 2001. Regular flights started in October 2002 mostly to Cape Verde, the Canary Islands and around the Mediterranean. Long haul flights began in December 2004 and are currently performed by two Boeing 767-300ERW (Extended Range Winglets).

Brussels Airlines

Brussels Airlines has daily flights between Belgium and Nairobi with Airbus A330 aircraft.

A Brussels Airlines Airbus A320.

A Brussels Airlines Airbus A320.

Brussels Airlines is the flag carrier of Belgium. It is headquartered on the grounds of Brussels Airport and is the largest airline based in Belgium. In addition to scheduled flights, Brussels Airlines operates charter services, maintenance and training services.

The more famous Belgian airline was Sabena which, however, collapsed in 2001. Due to the lack of a Belgian national airline, investors formed SN Brussels Airlines and took over Sabena’s assets in February 2002. SN Brussels became Brussels Airlines after a merger with Virgin Express in 2007.

Jubba Airways

Jubba Airways is a Somali airline based in Nairobi. It operates passenger and cargo flights to and within Somalia, as well as to the Middle East. The CEO of Jubba Airways is listed as Abdullahi Warsame. According to Wikipedia, the airline has a fleet of 4 aircraft consisting of Boeing 737-200, 737-300 and 737-400.

Atlas Cargo

Atlas Air Inc., is an American cargo and passenger charter airline based in New York. Atlas Cargo Boeing 747s regularly visit Nairobi’s JKIA airport.

The tail of an Atlas Cargo Boeing 747 showing the airline's symbol.

The tail of an Atlas Cargo Boeing 747 showing the airline’s symbol.

Atlas Air was founded in April 1992. The airline was named after Atlas, a Titan in Greek mythology, who carried the heavens on his shoulders. The airline’s symbol is a golden man carrying a golden globe. Atlas Air operates scheduled freight flights on a wet lease basis for some of the world’s leading airlines. Specific destinations vary due to changing customer needs and seasonal air cargo trends.

The holding company for Atlas Air is Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, which also owns Polar Air Cargo. Both Atlas Air and Polar Air Cargo carry freight worldwide.

The Atlas Air fleet of consists of Boeing 747 and Boeing 767 aircraft numbering 42 in total.


Martinair Cargo is a Dutch airline whose MD-11 and Boeing 747 aircraft are regular visitors to Nairobi.

A Martinair MD-11.

A Martinair MD-11.

Martinair Holland NV was established by Martin Schröder in 1958 and has been a fully-fledged member of the KLM Group since 31 December 2008. Within the KLM Group, Martinair Cargo specializes in flying full freighter aircraft from its hub at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

Martinair’s characteristically red fleet consists of MD-11 and Boeing 747. Martinair has also taken up four KLM-branded Boeing 747-400ERF in its operations.

Martinair Regional Jet Center (RJC) carries out technical maintenance work on the Embraer fleet of KLM Cityhopper.

Thomson Airways

Until the recent British travel advisory that discouraged UK citizens from visiting Kenya’s coast, Thomson Airways Boeing 767 and Boeing 787 aircraft were regular sights at Mombasa’s Moi International Airport.

G-TUIB, the second Boeing 787 Dreamliner for Thomson Airways.

G-TUIB, the second Boeing 787 Dreamliner for Thomson Airways.

Thomson Airways, formerly Britannia, was set up in 1962. It is based at Luton Airport and has a fleet of 77 aircraft flying from the UK and Ireland to more than 80 destinations around the world. Thomson Airways was the first airline in the UK to operate the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The airline is a subsidiary of TUI Travel.

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