Kenya Airways launched a firstever cabin cargo repurposing of a Boeing 787 into a “Preighter”. The term preighter was coined at the height of the pandemic last year to refer to passenger aircraft converted to cargo.

This has been made possible through a partnership with Avianor, a leader in the aerospace industry for more than 25 years. Through the partnership, the team repurposed its aircraft cabins into cargo transportation on the Boeing 787.


This joint effort is a worldwide breakthrough as it is the first ever cargo repurpose of this type to be performed on the Boeing 787, demonstrating Kenya Airways and Avianor’s role as trailblazers in the aero industry. The repurposed cabin has been certified to carry up to 16 tonnes of cargo, potentially enabling the aircraft to reach its maximum payload while in cargo operation of 46 tonnes. The repurposing began in December 2020 and was completed in January 2021.

This joint effort is in response to the growing demand and need for increased cargo capacity.

“KQ’s purpose is to contribute to the sustainable development of Africa. The preighter will enable us to bridge businesses & enhance connectivity. Kenya will export more goods to our partners across the globe & stimulate business for local suppliers,” said Allan Kilavuka, CEO and MD of Kenya Airways.

“This will have a 360 degrees impact on Kenya exports. It is a game changer that will lead to improved market access by ensuring that Kenyan products reach intended markets faster,” said Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency CEO Dr. Wilfred Marube.

Dr. Marube noted a 5.7% growth in exports trade between November 2019 (KES 530B) and November 2020 (KES 583B) partly because of Kenya Airways especially during the pandemic when they converted some of their passenger planes to cargo during the pandemic.

“Such collaborations and synergies is what will keep the Kenyan flag high on the global market. As an Agency, this is timely even as we prepare for the country’s participation in a global Expo Dubai 2020 which will run from October 1st 2021 to March 31st 2022. The Preighter will help facilitate and showcase the best of Kenyan goods and services to the world,” he added.

Kenya Airways reiterated KQs commitment to growing cargo business and creating more opportunities geared towards growth of the economy.

“We are excited to be part of the first ever certified cargo conversion of this type on the Boeing 787 aircraft. It demonstrates our agility, innovation and quick thinking as well as increases our cargo capability and capacity to keep essential goods moving across the globe. Kenya Airways will keep playing its role as a catalyst for economic growth in the continent, by connecting the world to Africa, and Africa to the world for both our Cargo and Passenger customer segments,” he said.

Speaking at the occasion, Okisegere Ojepat, CEO of Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya (FPC Kenya), said, “The horticulture sector’s contribution to Kenya’s economy cannot be downplayed. It is a major foreign exchange earner and provides employment opportunities to about 350,000 directly and supports over six million livelihoods.”

While speaking at the launch, Kenya Airports Authority’s MD, Alex Gitari noted that it will continue to support the air cargo industry by providing the requisite infrastructure and facilities within our network of airports.

In 2020, Kenya Airways used some of its B787 aircraft for cargo transportation, aircraft seats remained, limiting the space for an increased freight capacity. Avianor with its expertise supervised Kenya Airways’ modifications on the full cabin repurposing of two of their B787s.

“We are proud of this achievement. This and other events point to the rebound of the aviation industry and are a testament to its ability to innovate in the face of one of the hardest challenges faced by humanity. This development is a bold step for Kenya Airways,” stated James Macharia, cabinet secretary, ministry of transport infrastructure, housing and urban development.

“Avianor’s team has been pioneering the main deck temporary cargo repurposing process in response to the need for rapid increase in air freight cargo capacity at the onset of the pandemic. We are very excited to now be working with Kenya Airways to adapt this solution for their 787 aircraft. This represents a unique design and certification challenge, and we are thrilled to demonstrate, once again, our ability to find unprecedented solutions to customer needs,” said Matthieu Duhaime, president and CEO Avianor.

On his part Gilbert Kibe, director general Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), commended Kenya Airways for taking a bold innovative step to address the need for additional capacity for cargo and facilitating trade even as the aviation industry recovers through a difficult period.

“As passenger numbers are at an all-time low, airlines have had to look for alternative means of revenue to stay afloat. This project is economically significant as it will retain and create new jobs as well as support Kenya Airways in its recovery efforts to diversify revenues.” said Kibe.