HAYWOOD DUMPS AIR UGANDA FOR FASTJET JOB
When it was reported here a year ago, that one Kayle Haywood was to replace Hugh Fraser as CEO of Air Uganda, the breaking news clearly rattled a few cages at the time, leaving carefully laid plans to break the news at a later stage upstaged by this correspondent. Fraser had halted the rot caused by previous management when he introduced the initially projected CRJ200 aircraft instead of keeping the fuel guzzling MD87’s and had the CAA grant U7 self handling status, saving the carrier a reported half a million US Dollars per annum from handling alone, in the process turning the financial tide for Air Uganda. Haywood was to build on these achievements but it can now be confirmed that true to form he did not even complete a year at the helm of U7. Instead he dumped his masters in true mercenary style to move to upstart FastJet. Described by some as secretive and full of growing paranoia, attempting to forbid U7 staffers contact with the media and past colleagues, his uneventful 11 months term has come to an unceremonious end for some though not a day too soon it was learned, leaving Air Uganda to search once more for a new CEO.
Haywood is now Regional General Manager of FastJet, based in Dar es Salaam, and like at his start in Kampala in November 2011again rattled, this time by the vehemence of sentiments expressed in articles about the misleading US Dollar 20 fare which the airline keeps peddling to the public with impunity.
However, mainstream media in East Africa too have since picked up the story and poured acid comments on the airline’s assertion to sell fares at KShs 1.700 per sector, something dismissed out of hand again by top level aviators from around the EAC. ‘If this laughable attempt to create attention for themselves is anything to go by, they will be as fast out as they came in’ said a Nairobi based source, who claimed that fare levels, even considering a large pile of money to burn on start up, could not be much less than what for instance JetLink is now charging on flights into the region or what predecessor 540 was charging. ‘They really cannot claim to be an LCC carrier, lesser cost perhaps but low cost no. There are no cheaper alternative airports in the region where they can land an Airbus A319. Their owners in Europe do not use the main hub airports but bases way out of the major cities or airports in lesser demand like for instance Stansted in London. But in East Africa there is Dar, Nairobi, Entebbe, Kigali and the Kilimanjaro, Mwanza, Zanzibar or Bujumbura, even add Juba if they get the traffic rights. These airports are not giving them cheaper fees for landing and all, handling will be as much as others pay, nav fees will be the same and so is aviation fuel. Here their European booking model is not practiced so they need to use the costlier conventional distribution systems. The only saving will be not to give meals and drinks. Their cockpit crews will cost literally the same but maybe they can save a bit on cabin crew for a while. Remember, ATC is launching again with Tanzania government money and KQ is launching Jambo Jet with the similar concepts and market tactics, so where will that leave them. Imagine, they intend t offer three flights between Dar and Nairobi, with about 450 seats per day, and to fly with a 20 Dollar fare and break even, imagine the loadfactors they need. There simply are no additional 450 travellers to be found every day especially when the truth becomes known that the 20 Dollar is for long advanced bookings and yet most people in our region book at short notice. They would have to generate additional demand, possible only via their pricing, for the about 13.500 seats on that route they intend to offer based on three flights a day. But truth told, in reality you don’t pay the 20 Dollars but you pay say 60 or 80 pr more Dollars which they already admitted to in recent interviews it was reported, on top of which come other fees, taxes, baggage fees and so forth. Does this make financial sense? I wonder who duped the financiers to buy into such schemes. But fair enough, let them burn money and learn the hard way. 540 burned money as if it went out of fashion which became known when the talks with Rubicon started and the extend of losses were reported in the daily papers and one day someone will wake up and ask the FastJet managers also where it all went’.
It is clear that the battle for the East African skies has just entered a new phase and going by the feedback over the past two days, the gloves will come off even before the first FastJet aircraft takes to the skies for commercial flights. This will make undoubtedly for more good stories in months to come, so watch this space for breaking and regular news.