Ethiopian Airlines will fly to Mombasa twice daily beginning next month, further raising the stakes for national carrier Kenya Airways .
Kenya signed the open sky agreement to improve connectivity across the continent and make it more affordable, which has seen the national carrier face tougher competition on its backbone African routes.
The Ethiopian operator was granted an additional frequency by the Kenyan government last month.
The agreement between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali means that the Ethiopian carrier will fly frequently on the busy Addis Ababa-Mombasa route.
The additional flight will serve as a blow for Kenya Airways, which dominates the international transfers between Nairobi and Mombasa.
Only two regional airlines — Ethiopian Airlines and Rwand Air — currently operate scheduled flights to Mombasa from Addis Ababa and Kigali respectively.
Turkish Airlines is the only one from Europe operating scheduled flights between Istanbul and Mombasa.
Middle East carrier Qatar Airways has indicated plans to fly directly from Doha to Mombasa, piling pressure for KQ, as the national carrier is commonly referred to by its international code.
Unlike these carriers, KQ drops passengers at its Nairobi hub before proceeding to Mombasa.
The Transport ministry in July 2016 also granted low-cost carrier flydubai the rights to begin daily flights between Dubai and Mombasa.
The agreement between Kenya and Addis Ababa is also expected to facilitate the expansion of KQ into the Ethiopian market.
Ethiopian Airlines currently takes 80 per cent of its local market with the remaining 20 per cent shared out to all other airlines operating in the market.
As the local aviation market expands, KQ has called for reciprocal policies in other countries to also boost its business.
“If we allow one airline to fly here four times a day, we should be allowed to fly there four times a day,” said KQ chairman Michael Joseph in an earlier media interview.