Maximising the value of existing source markets through active air route development


When we think about route development, the imagery that often comes to mind is the water cannon salute when a new airline taxies into a destination for the first time.

Whilst this is indeed true, we often overlook the act of an existing airline adding additional frequencies on the same route or swapping out a smaller aircraft for a larger model, adding additional seat capacity.

I mention the above to highlight that in the pursuit of new airline partners, those airlines already serving a destination can be overlooked and taken for granted.

The last thing a destination wants or needs is an airline to unexpectedly cease or reduce service, especially to an established source market. Once an airline has announced its cessation date, it is already too late, which is why there needs to be proactive and regular engagement between the airline and local stakeholders to ensure everything is being done to maintain and grow the route.

To understand the value of an air route to a destination, allow me to offer an example.

Let’s assume an airline operates a daily service to your destination with a Boeing 737-8 MAX offering 160 seats, with an 80% load factor (128 seats per day). Let’s also assume the average passenger onboard spends $500 in your destination. This equates to $23.3 Million per year in spend. Losing this could be catastrophic, but on the flip side, developing it could be transformative!

A great example of where an intra-African route has been supported and nurtured is Kenya Airways and their Nairobi to Cape Town route. In the 3 year period between 2016-2019, the number of passengers between the cities has increased more than fourfold.

This growth was delivered by a combination of active stakeholder support, improved visa conditions and increased frequencies. Notably, on some routes the aircraft used has been up gauged from a 96 seater Embraer 190 to a 234 seater Boeing 787. Kenya Airways have also added direct flights from Nairobi to Cape Town complementing existing flights via Livingstone and Victoria Falls.

With over 50% of all international tourists arriving at their destination by air each year, I would argue that the airlines are a destination’s most important customer. Therefore, understanding what motivates an airline to launch or expand service is vital to the success of any African destination.

My question for all Destination Management Organizations reading this is: Are you putting as much effort into keeping the airlines you already have versus trying to encourage new airlines to serve the destination?
If not, perhaps now is the time to reconsider?

If you are a tourism authority or stakeholder that would like to get more informed and involved, register to attend AviaDev Africa this June alongside your airport authority. In collaboration with the SADC Business Council, a workshop focused on the role of tourism boards in route development will be offered, along with the opportunity to meet with the airline representatives of over 40 airlines.

Happy landings

AviaDev Africa 2024 will take place in Windhoek, Namibia 19-21 June 2024.

Find out more at


Jon Howell, is the CEO and Founder of AviaDev, a division of The Bench.

Jon has dedicated the last 12 years to supporting the development of air connectivity to, from, and within the African continent by delivering live and virtual events and providing year-round content and insight into the industry.
The annual AviaDev Africa event was established in 2016 and is now regarded as the premier platform dedicated to supporting African Aviation development, having delivered 7 editions.

Jon established AviaDev Insight Africa, the only podcast dedicated to African aviation in 2018. To date, the podcast has over 100,000 listeners in 185 countries globally and over 275 episodes to its name.

Jon is passionate about empowering the next generation of aviators. He became a Visiting Professor at Coventry University in March 2022 and regularly delivers lectures to Undergraduate and postgraduate aviation management students.
Jon was also appointed a Global Ambassador for Gorilla Conservation for his fundraising efforts which include climbing the three largest mountains in the UK in a single weekend wearing a gorilla suit.

This Article was first published in the March 2024 (Issue 027) of VoyagesAfriq Travel Magazine


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