May 16, 2012 / 3:12 PM / 7 years ago

Virgin Atlantic to stop Kenya flights by Sept

A Virgin Atlantic aircraft comes in to land at Heathrow Airport, in London May 26, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

(Reuters) - British airline Virgin Atlantic plans to withdraw flights between Nairobi and London by September due to low passenger numbers, high fuel costs, and increasing aviation taxes in Britain.

Virgin Atlantic, majority-owned by billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, launched the Nairobi-London route in 2007. Since then British Air Passenger Duty has risen by over 100 percent, it said in a statement on Wednesday.

Fuel, a major cost for airlines, prone to vagaries of high international oil prices, has soared more than 50 percent during the period, the company said.

“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,” Julie Southern, chief commercial officer at Virgin Atlantic said.

The last Virgin Atlantic flight from London’s Heathrow will be on September 23, while that from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Kenya’s main air gateway, will be a day after.

The airline flies five times a week to Kenya, and also operates in four other African routes, including Lagos, in Nigeria, Cape Town, Johannesburg in South Africa and Accra, the capital of Ghana.

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