AVIATION, TOURISM AND CONSERVATION NEWS from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands.
A weekly roundup of breaking news, reports, travel stories and opinions by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
You can get your daily breaking news updates instantly via Twitter by following @whthome, join me on www.facebook.com/WolfgangHThome where the articles also ‘cross load’ or read the daily postings on my blog via www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com which you can also ‘follow’ to get immediate notification when a new article is posted.
Fourth edition October 2012
AIR MAURITIUS ADDS THIRD AUSTRALIA FLIGHT WITH DESTINATION PERTH
Information has been received from a usually reliable source that Air Mauritius, which just won the World Travel Awards’ ‘Best airline in the Indian Ocean’ appears set to add a third flight from Port Louis to Australia, with Perth as the destination of choice and not Sydney or Melbourne. This development signals a change of heart in the top echelons of Air Mauritius as for a while the airline seemed intent to withdraw form ‘Down Under’ altogether, leaving the field to Air Austral, before resuming flights.
The Mauritius’ tourism sector has been advocating for more flights, not just to cater for the large number of Mauritius’ expatriates to have an easy connection home but for the sharp growth in interest and visitor numbers from Aussieland to the island, which was impacted upon by the initial decision to pull out of Australia. Visitor numbers from Australia to Mauritius in 2011 were reportedly up by 37 percent before being impacted by the off / on / off / on of flights by the Mauritius flag carrier which in real numbers was over 4.000 more than in 2010.
Alternative routes for Australians are however available via Johannesburg, served by both Qantas and South African with onward connections to Port Louis and Rodrigues, or via Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad via their Gulf hubs, which however entails much longer journey times.
Tourism sources welcomed the news cautiously but immediately pointed at the fact that perhaps a flight from Mauritius via Perth to Sydney or Melbourne would have made more sense.
Regardless, happy landings to the new route and watch this space for regular and breaking news from the Indian Ocean’s aviation scene.
HONG KONG CUSTOMS IMPOUND 4 TONS OF BLOOD IVORY
In what has been described as the biggest seizure of blood ivory has the customs department in Hong Kong in a joint operation with other security organs confiscated nearly 4 tons of ivory, representing the life of over 600 elephants. Shipment documents indicate that the two containers of contraband originated from Tanzania and Kenya, representing a market value of nearly 3.5 million US Dollars. At least 7 people were arrested according to media reports from Hong Kong, now facing prison terms of up to 7 years and fines up to 2 million HK Dollars if found guilty in a court of law.
Demand for blood ivory from within China is the major driver for the sharp increase in poaching of elephant, which according to a parliamentary report filed in Tanzania recently stands at up to 30 animals poached per day.
The seizure will come as a blow to Tanzania which is intent to once again file a request to sell 100 tons of ivory to the next CITES Convention in Bangkok next year, but has ahead of the last such meeting in Doha lost out when the CITES Secretariat found huge gaps in enforcement and anti poaching efforts by Tanzanian officials, turning down the application at the time. Continued finds of blood ivory hauls originating from Tanzania will therefore dent hopes they will be permitted to sell unless they can finally demonstrate that the get a handle on poaching and turn the tide.
Kenya in contrast has nabbed over 8 tons of blood ivory, often in air cargo transit shipments, by the introduction of canine units at airports and sea ports over the past two years, demonstrating greater commitment and stricter monitoring of cargo shipments to the world in the fight against poaching.
Watch this space for regular updates on conservation issues of concern across the Eastern African elephant range countries.
ONE DOWN AND SEVEN TO GO FOR WINDPOWER PROJECT IN THE SEYCHELLES
Information from Mahe confirms that the first of overall 8 windpower turbines, which are assembled in two locations on the main island of the Seychelles as a pilot project to tap into renewable energy sources, has now been assembled in full on the Ile du Port. This will permit the second unit to be assembled on site, due to start next week. The final ‘tower’ is due for completion by early December to be followed by trial runs before the formal commissioning by President James Alix Michel.
Under ideal conditions the 8 units are expected to generate about 6 MW of power which will be fed into the national grid through a special electricity substation, which according to the same source is already complete and ready to go.
The Seychelles is rolling out a green energy plan to increase the percentage of using renewable energy sources through promoting the increased use of solar power to generate hot water and provide electricity on a domestic level while introducing wind power to progressively increase electricity supply through green technologies.
While conversing through email the source also rubbished recent reports of ‘green washing’, insisting that the Seychelles’ credentials of going green and staying green are a result of measuring performance through internationally recognized mechanisms and parameters, pointing at the fact that over 50 percent of the country’s territory is now formally protected by law. ‘You have been to our islands many times and seen what efforts are going into our terrestrial and marine national parks. You met the key individuals from the SeychellesIsland Foundation, Nature Seychelles, SeychellesNational Parks and other NGO’s working in the conservation field. You interviewed them and asked questions and were able to form your own conclusions. If the Seychelles government were involved in what some call green washing, you would have found that out for sure and said so. We have nothing to hide as far as our records and our commitment to conservation is concerned, we are open about it, we know about the challenges and we are constantly seeking to learn and improve. Seychelles as a tourism destination depends on intact beaches, nature, marine life. Suggestions of tampering with the very foundation of our tourism industry is simply ludicrous if not outright malicious and a mere invention by people with their own agenda’ said the source. Seychelles, truly Another World.
DAR ES SALAAM REMAINS TENSE AFTER ARMY DEPLOYS IN HOT SPOTS
The most recent clashes between separatists and religious radicals in Zanzibar, which caused considerable concern amongst the island’s tourism fraternity, have been mirrored in Dar es Salaam during the week, where demonstrations following the arrests of radicals descended into more church burnings, leaving the security forces struggling with the situation, until on Friday army units were deployed to keep a tense calm.
Reported attempts by radical groups to march to State House were brought to a halt as protesters agitated against President Kikwete for having visited the destroyed churches to get a first hand report on the damage caused by the unprecedented levels of sectarian violence.
Tourism stakeholders have quietly expressed their growing concern, over the radicalization of the situation in Zanzibar, where a protester was shot dead on Friday, as well as in Dar es Salaam, as it gave the country a bad name abroad. ‘We were already suffering from the negative reports about tourists being mugged, a Greek visitor being murdered during a mugging in broad daylight. But with this situation spreading and almost out of hand a few days ago, police is busy with the radicals and normal police work could suffer. There might not be enough personnel around to keep up the patrols outside and near the main hotels and in the areas where muggings have happened and it opens the door for criminals to exploit that situation. We have enough issues to be concerned about in the tourism industry and more security issues should not be added to those. I personally support the idea that Kikwete sent the army in to the city hotspots to keep the peace but the underlying issues should be resolved. There can be no split in the union, we have to stay united with Zanzibar and the radicals must be defeated on a political level as well as on a security level’.
Tanzania has since independence been a model of peaceful coexistence between different religious groups and unlike other countries in the region never suffered of tribal clashes, making it an example for others to emulate. There is however now growing speculation that foreign agitators with their own radical agenda may have infiltrated into Zanzibar to ferment trouble under the guise of seeking separation from the mainland. The recent defeat of the last Al Shabab stronghold in Somalia, when the port city of Kismayu fell to AU forces, found many of the foreign masterminds had left by sea, probably under the cover of night, to melt away into coastal communities elsewhere along the extended East African coastline and local security organs are now said to be on high alert to hunt such individuals down before they can start building new networks and cause trouble. Watch this space for regular situation updates.
FASTJET SIGNS UP FOR TWO MORE A 319’S
Seemingly unperturbed by aviators sentiments from the region and seeing their much hyped up 20 US Dollar fare being torn to shreds after exposing it as a mirage, has FastJet reportedly signed up for two more Airbus A319 aircraft, configured with 150+ seats in an all economy version.
Leased from Volito Aviation (www.volito.aero) in Sweden, the two A 319’s are number 2 and 3 of an overall 5 the upstart intends to introduce in East and West Africa within weeks while intending to operate a fleet of up to 15 such birds within a year’s time, once flights have commenced.
Starting date for the projected flights between Dar es Salaam and Nairobi is still to be confirmed, but supposed to be in November, and it is understood that rival Air Tanzania, with the full backing of the Tanzanian government, seems intent to return to that route first, which if true would make the life of the new upstart even more challenging. The company has also signed up with handling agency Swissport to provide ground handling services in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, although it is understood that the agreement covers the entire African operation of FastJet, at least where Swissport is present and licensed.
In related news it was confirmed by a usually well informed source that FastJet has appointed additional senior staff, bringing on board from EasyJet Bob Bishton as COO and from Ryan Air H. Cordan as Chief of Flight Operations, besides the already announced appointment of Kayle Haywood as Regional General Manager – all of them reporting to CEO Ed Winter.
A different aviation source from Nairobi had this to say overnight: ’With Stelios on board they may have a good source of aviation knowledge backing them but all those in the top echelons have European experience and know not a thing about the East African aviation market. When they send their consultants to our parts to fact find and write about viability and feasibility, you think we tell those guys what we put in our water to make it taste better? They are told what they expect to hear, what they want to hear and then, armed with their European experience, they produce a shining bound document which is far from reality. Did they really capture the current traffic levels between Tanzania and Kenya and seen how that translates into point to point traffic and those connecting with Kenya Airways mainly to the African and international network. You in Uganda admit you only have about 20 percent of all passengers as point to point traffic. And for that Air Uganda and 540 had to compete with KQ which offers a better loyalty programme, has more flights. From Dar it is even more difficult because Precision is in the KQ camp and that leaves ATCL when or if they resume to Nairobi. Now I wonder what the fancy studies of FastJet actually says about that constellation. If they want to fly three times a day that is like you said yesterday about 460 plus seats. What passenger loads you think they need to break even with such fares, even considering that they will ask say 80 Dollars fare, PLUS the fees and taxes and other charges they have failed to disclose until now, from those who book late as we normally do here.
First those booking late will be angry because they have all been wound up by the talk of 20 Dollar fares and do not want to know why they have to pay more. That is what they remember and that is what they expect to pay, otherwise they will start shouting liar liar. So loads, say 85 percent to make ends meet? Where will those passengers come from. Maybe I miss something after working more than 25 years in this industry but believe me it is rather that they have missed some important piece of information here and that will be costly. As an aviator I wish them well because that is what we do but financially it seems like a pre programmed crash’.
Time for sure will tell how the story ends, in a fairy tale like ‘happily forever after’ or by shareholders, directors and management coming to blows, figuratively speaking only of course, when the money is gone and creditors loom large. Watch this space.
MAURITIUS CAPTURES 7 WORLD TRAVEL AWARDS AT SINGAPORE CEREMONY
Inspite of Mauritius’s Tourism Promotion Authority’s less than impressive run over the past year have the island’s private sector stakeholders risen to the occasion in staying on top of their class in the Indian Ocean area, and subsequently scooped 7 top honours for the island.\
The Hilton Mauritius was awarded the World Travel Award for ‘Indian Ocean Leading Spa’, the Maradiva was recognized as ‘Mauritius’Leading Resort’, the Le Meridien Ile Maurice handed the honours as ‘Mauritius’ Leading Hotel’ while Le Paradise Hotel & Golf Club took the honours as ‘Mauritius’ Leading Golf Resort. Alongside did the port of Port Louis capture the title as ‘Indian Ocean’s Best Cruise Port’ while the 2012 title as the ‘Indian Ocean’s Leading Resort’ went to the One&Only Le Saint Geran. Finally did Air Mauritius claim the title as ‘The Indian Ocean’s Leading Airline’
Congratulation to all the winners who deserve to stand in the spotlight and enjoy the fruits of hard work by their staff and management. Well done indeed.
On the downside it has to be mentioned again that the Africa award ceremony should have taken place in Nairobi / Kenya, which had been selected by the organizers of the World Travel Awards. The event got booted off when Kenya’s tourism ministry suddenly declared they had no money to pay up their share of the expenses to host this prestigious event, much to the disappointment of Kenya’s tourism industry, which will now have to collect their awards in London at WTM. According to a source spoken with yesterday this is: ‘a huge embarrassment for Kenya that our ministry should fail so publicly. They had committed and failed us. It shows that our minister has lost it and he should really go home. They are spending all that money which was meant for promotion and marketing and such high profile events on setting up half a dozen parastatals instead of one solid and strong tourism authority. It is a black spot on our clean record that we should invite and then tell our guest last minute, when almost in a taxi to our home, to turn around and go back’. Can’t say one can disagree much with this sentiment as after all that was an untimely hammer blow if not insult to the tourism private sector. Watch this space.
DOUBLE WHAMMY AS YELLOW FEVER OUTBREAK JOINS MARBURG
Uganda’s tourism industry is in jitters since the announcement that Marburg fever has been identified as the cause of death of at least four people in Kabale District in South Western Uganda as reported here yesterday. The situation was made worse when it became known that at least one case of Yellow Fever has also been identified in Northern Uganda, besides an outbreak of deadly hepatitis in the North East of the country. The Marburg outbreak follows hot on the heels of an Ebola outbreak in Uganda’s Kibale District which scared potential visitors and led to the denial of Visa for Uganda’s Muslim faithful who wanted to go for the Haj Pilgrimage only to be told they were banned over Ebola fears.
Current visitors to Uganda, though most unlikely to come anywhere near the area where the Yellow Fever outbreaks was recorded, will now be well advised to get their own Yellow Fever inoculations as the certificate could be demanded from them when getting home or traveling elsewhere after a visit to Uganda.
Said a regular commentator from Kampala yesterday evening when the added bad news were announced: ‘This was to be a year of celebration. Lonely Planet made us their top destination for 2012. We celebrated 50 years of Independence. Business generally was on the upswing. But it ended up as far from normal. We are reassuring our tourists that they need not worry as those places in the North are far from tourist routes but the Kabale thing is of course at the cross roads to Kisoro and Mgahinga and to Bwindi and that is not so good. Still let me say that our visitors are safe and need not worry’.
As reassuring as that may sound, ahead of the busy high season this is not something Uganda needed to go through. The international media are now also highlighting the fighting right across the borders in Congo, where militias and the regime army are battling for supremacy to control the area rich in minerals and oil and the spill over of tens of thousands of refugees once again, besides warming up the old stories on disease outbreaks in the past. It never rains but pours it seems, but the time is now to stand up and tell the world about the bright sides of our country and why we are after all called ‘The Pearl of Africa. Watch this space.
SERENA’S REFURBISHMENTS ON TRACK TO STAY TOP OF THE POPS
Work has been progressing well at the Mara Serena Lodge where since February this year part of the public areas like the reception, the boutique, the main bar, lounge and the Spa are being transformed and given a new look. The extended timeframe is a result of work actually only being carried out when guests are out on their game drives, to keep any disturbance to an absolute minimum. Final touches are being applied now to be ready for the onset of the busy holiday season in December. Meanwhile are tented dining facilities being put up in preparation of a complete remodeling of the dining room, which will see more space being added and when re-opening in June next year also see a fresh shine with new furniture, fittings and equipment, giving guests a that unique dining experience found right across the entire collection of Serena properties.
Meanwhile at the coast are 16 village rooms being completely overhauled at the Serena Beach Hotel and Spa, ready for occupation by early December this year. According to information at hand this involves the far end units of the ‘Swahili Village’ which was built in the early 70’s to reflect the unique architecture found along the Swahili coast line of Kenya and Eastern Africa. The intention then, still valid today, was to give guests that unique feel of how life at the Kenya coast of old once was. Further such work is expected to progressively see all these units given a face lift, cementing Serena’s position as the leading East African hospitality group.
All lodges and resorts now also extend free wireless services to guests staying there, a move which has already resulted in increase visibility on the social media, as visitors can now free of charge send pictures to their Twitter timeline or post on their Facebook pages, an promotional tool increasing in importance in leaps and bounds. Watch this space for regular updates from East Africa’s hospitality scene.
REFUGEES FROM CONGO SUSPECTED TO HAVE BROUGHT MARBURG TO UGANDA
According to emerging reports from South Western Uganda there is increasing suspicion of an outbreak of the deadly Marburg fever and affected individuals have been tested and put into a full quarantine. A team of health officials is on the ground, assisted reportedly by security personnel, combing areas where refugees have sought shelter to identify anyone displaying symptoms in line with the early signs of the disease.
Only two weeks ago was Uganda declared Ebola free, after an outbreak, also suspected to have been brought into Uganda from the Eastern Congo, took a toll on patients and health workers. Marburg falls into the same category of virus diseases as Ebola and while less virulent still known to be a killer disease with a high percentage of casualties. Diseases in Congo’s rain forests are common but normally contained within a small radius of one or two communities but with the lack of health care structures in that part of the Congo, where at the moment intense fighting is going on, makes refugees often the main carriers to bring such disease across the border into Uganda, where a much better equipped health care infrastructure is then compelled to deal with the unwanted ‘imports’.
The local media in Kampala are now starting to pick up on the news, which almost inevitably started to emerge on Twitter as individuals on the ground sent messages out which where then picked up and retweeted.
The outbreak comes on the day prior to Uganda’s National Bird Watching contest, with the opening ceremony taking place this afternoon at the Uganda Museum in Kampala from where the participating teams were to leave for their chosen locations upcountry and in the national parks. A full statement is expected later today from the Ministry of Health but the Uganda Virus Research Institute in Entebbe has reportedly confirmed that it is Marburg, prompting widespread containment measures now unfolding around the affected areas between Kabale and Kisoro. Watch this space for more news or follow you news broadcasts on social networks or on TV.
WILLIAM K. KIPRONO – THE NEW KWS CEO
William Kibet Kiprono was recently, as published here within the hour of the information coming from State House Nairobi, appointed Director, Kenya Wildlife Service, in October 2012. He was a County Commissioner, Vihiga County prior to this high profile appointment.
Kiprono has served in the public service as an administrator for over 22 years. During his career he has worked and served in Kajiado, Baringo, Nyandarua, Kiambu, Kisumu, Makueni, Marsabit, Mwingi, Samburu, Busia, Tharaka Nithi and recently Vihiga County. He was first appointed as a District Officer in 1990 before rising through ranks to his appointment as a County Commissioner in May 2012.
This experience prepared him, to take up the role of the CEO of a government agency that has both uniformed and non-uniformed members of staff. His appointment as Executive Director, Kenya Wildlife Service is a culmination of his public service in Kenya. He is in fact the first ever career public servant to join KWS as a Executive Director.
His decision to accept the appointment as the director was informed by the belief that he can take up the challenge of addressing human wildlife conflict, poaching and winning more space for wildlife. He foresees natural resource based-conflicts happening in the future if nothing is done to address wanton destruction of the environment by the current generation. He has set out to address these challenges through enhancing law enforcement, providing conservation education and awareness and lobbying for relevant legislations that solidly anchor conservation agenda. He plans to build synergies with all stakeholders for sustainable wildlife management in the country in his first 100 days as the director.
Kiprono is enrolled at Egerton University for a doctoral degree in management. He previously attained his postgraduate degree at the same university in year 2009. His undergraduate degree was obtained at Moi University in year 1990.
A St. Patrick (Iten) Alumnus, Kiprono has attended several other trainings in management and strategic leadership at Kenya School of Government. He has undertaken paramilitary training for administration officers as well as anti-terrorism and disaster response training in Israel. A strong believer in constitutionalism and teamwork, he intends to give KWS a human face that upholds the supremacy of the people of Kenya as enshrined in the constitution. In his own words he values integrity and patriotism.
Best of luck to William in what is without doubt the greatest professional challenge in his life.
NOW THE UN DUMPS ON MOMBASA TOO
Within months of the US Embassy declaring a hasty if not cowardly and ultimately withdrawn travel embargo on Kenya’s Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa, has now the UN done the same to the outrage of Kenya’s political leadership and –not surprisingly here – the coastal tourism fraternity.
The UN’s offices in Nairobi have reportedly told their staff NOT to travel to the coast, not on business and supposedly not for vacation time too, leaving coast tourism sources exasperated to say the least. In fact a source in Nairobi claims that travel to the entire coast region, including the resorts in Diani and along the stretch of beaches from Kilifi via Watamu to Malindi is included in the anti travel advice issued by the UN to their staff which prompted a regular coast source to rant: ‘Whatever has Kenya done to them but given them hospitality and friendship. Is this payback because Koffi has not been able to have tea at State House? I bet there is a connection somewhere because what other reason could they have. Security at the coast is tight and ahead of a long weekend in Kenya this is bad for business for us and for the airlines too because UN staff and their families often come to the coast for long weekends. I think it is disrespectful of their host country Kenya and either a panic reaction or else something of a hidden agenda and personally I do not put it beyond Koffi to vent his anger like that. Do they warn people not to go to the parks because they could be eaten by a lion or not drive a car in Kenya because there might be an accident? This is simply wrong’.
While such an explanation, linking Koffi Annan’s recent presence in Nairobi and his inability to secure a meeting with President Kibaki is of course is most unlikely to hold water, it nevertheless reflects the growing frustration by coast tourism stakeholders with foreign embassies and missions making public declarations where their staff should not go, in the process creating negative publicity which is regularly being picked up by global media then blowing it even further out of proportion.
Coast tourism has according to figures released by the Kenya Tourist Board, covering the January to August period, declined by over 20 percent, with the months of July and August in fact way higher than the average figure, and while Kenya has in the past managed to deal with anti travel advisories from abroad, having such sprung on them from within is still novel but thought to cause even more damage as it directly prevents a main target group for domestic travel from actually visiting the coastal resorts.
Watch this space to see how this will play out in coming days and if this ill-considered if not outright offensive anti travel advisory will be withdrawn soon.
RWANDA ROLLS OUT RED CARPET FOR NEW CRJ900 NG ARRIVAL
Final touches are presently being put on the first of two Bombardier CRJ900 NG aircraft, ordered by RwandAir six months ago to replace two CRJ200 jets which have since been sold to a West African airline.
The new, state of the art aircraft, incidentally the first in Africa, is due to leave the Bombardier assembly plant tomorrow, Saturday 20th October and will be flown via Gander, Keflavik, Bologna and Aswan to Kigali, where the aircraft is expected on Monday 22nd October.
Local and regional media are already gearing up for this event, which will signal another major milestone for Rwanda’s national airline, not based on hype but on vision and performance.
The airline has over the past two years progressively moved from a simple point to point carrier to transform into a network carrier, now offering almost seamless connections via Kigali from Johannesburg to Lagos, Libreville, Brazzaville to Dubai, and inbetween to Entebbe, Bujumbura, Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilimanjaro and Dar es Salaam. The domestic network of RwandAir includes Kamembe and Gisenyi.
When the first, and within the space of two week the second brand new jet has joined the existing fleet of 2 B737-800’s, 2 B737-500’s and one Bombardier Dash 8-100, the airline will immediately add more frequencies to regional destinations, as well as to South and West Africa, with Dubai then also moving to daily flights.
The airline, with full support of the Rwanda government, is expected to convert the two options for additional CRJ900 NG into firm orders, as it moves to the anticipated delivery of at least two B787 Dreamliners by about 2016, when the new airport in Bugesera outside Kigali is also expected to become operational. Watch this space as RwandAir is once again making African aviation history.
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.
EMBRAER TO PARTNER WITH ADB TO SELL MORE PLANES TO AFRICA
Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer, emboldened by its success to sell their E170 and E190 jets to Kenya Airways and other leading African airlines, but also clearly rattled by Bombardiers relentless offensive to get into the lucrative African market with their newer CRJNG models and from 2014 onwards with their state of the art CSeries, has reportedly started talks with the African Development Bank on aircraft finance cooperation. The expressed objective appears the formation of an Africa based aircraft leasing company, in which both Embraer and the ADB could have a financial interest, aimed to make modern jet and turboprop aircraft more affordable by African airlines and in the process promote safer and more affordable air transport across the continent.
Embraer has risen to become the world’s third largest aircraft manufacturer after global giants Airbus and Boeing – strictly named in alphabetical order not in judgment over one being larger than the other – and Bombardier is clearly keen to step on to the podium themselves, buoyed by their own success in selling the proven Dash 8, followed by the Q300 and now their Q400NG to African airlines. That success was followed by sales of previously owned CRJ200 jets to airlines mainly in East Africa, before next week delivering the first of initially two brand new CRJ900NG to RwandAir.
Embraer’s efforts to join hands with the ADB are seen in the light of aircraft finance hard to come by otherwise, often leading to privately owned African carriers opting for ageing and older jets instead of buying state of the art birds which burn a lot less fuel, are more maintenance friendly and meet environmental standards of the 4G aircraft generation, but are difficult to afford due to the capital requirements for purchase or lease. While in the past supporting and assisting buyers through efforts of the Brazilian government to provide export guarantees, entry into the aircraft leasing league will clearly give Embraer an added advantage when laying out the key selling points to African airlines.
Meanwhile has it been learned that Bombardier is considering to extend support to aircraft maintenance organizations willing to invest in carrying out heavy maintenance on their aircraft in operation across Africa and that exploratory talks have taken place with potential investors from within the industry to specialize in Bombardier type maintenance tooling and spare inventories. Such talks were reportedly on the agenda of the Embraer team accompanying the Q400 demonstration tour of Africa, where this latest generation of turboprop aircraft was introduced in our region to airlines in Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and Kigali, resulting in a number of ongoing sales negotiations.
Africa, inspite of or because of its continental aviation safety record, has of late been the target of ICAO and IATA to promote greater safety awareness and the use of modern aircraft will go a long way in bringing the African continent’s accident average in line with global figures. Air traffic to and from Africa is expected to grow faster than global average in coming years and demand for new aircraft, right sized aircraft of the makes of Embraer and Bombardier, is projected to be lucrative enough for both manufacturers to pull out all the stops and use every tool in the marketing, sales and strategy manuals to become the company of choice for existing and new airlines. Watch this space.
THE 20 DOLLAR FARE EXPOSED AS A MIRAGE
‘It is all about making noise, but when you dig deeper you find that it is all a bunch of hog wash, the 20 Dollar fare is subject to so much in extra and those extras demanded when you check in, you are better off with KQ or PW or U7 than this lot’ ranted a regular aviation source in Dar es Salaam yesterday when discussing the entry of FastJet into the Tanzanian and East African aviation market. ‘With them you get an inclusive ticket price and FastJet is pulling a fast one on the public by talking ‘fare’ instead of ticket. It is a violation of laws too from my standpoint because you cannot dupe the public into believing that the figure you give is what they in the end pay. You must include taxes and all to show an inclusive price just like restaurants cannot show a price for an item and then in very small print at the bottom somewhere say ‘add 15 percent service charge and 20 percent VAT’. Well some do but it is illegal.
The 20 Dollar is the plain fare but the ticket involves a lot more, fuel supplements for instance, airport taxes and fees and when digging a bit deeper, these chaps make you pay a lot at the counter in cash when you come with baggage. For every piece of baggage they charge you, probably more than the fare, and I would not be surprised if they come up with the rubbish they do in Europe like charge you for check in because you have not used a machine or done it on the web, or charge for boarding passes to be printed because you have not done so before coming to the airport. They fail to tell the public how they operate to squeeze money out of them when least expected and knowing how our people travel there will be riots at check in when the staff suddenly demand another 20 bucks for this and another 30 bucks for that. Our aviation regulator should prevent this from happening and make FastJet come up with full disclosure of hidden charges before they are allowed to fly. The traveling public has a right to know in advance what they have to pay and not be subjected to a fast one, pun fully intended here’.
FastJet is set to commence operations from Dar es Salaam with an inaugural flight to Nairobi, then to be served up to 3 times a day with a 150+ seater Airbus A319 in an all economy configuration, before adding domestic flights to Kilimanjaro and Mwanza, a route from where Fly540 Tanzania has already withdrawn. That airline cited in a communication ‘preparations to hand over the route to FastJet’ an assertion rubbished by aviation pundits who pointed at lousy occupancies on flights as the main cause for that decision. When further investigating it also appeared that the much hyped up 20 US Dollar fare, WHICH IS NOT THE COST FOR THE TICKET, will only be available when booked weeks in advance, while the cost of fares when booked just prior to departure may be a multiple of that fare, literally matching existing fares by airlines like Precision Air, Kenya Airways or Air Uganda, with which FastJet is expected to compete. Ready to fly or ready to fail, both words start with the proverbial F …
Watch this space for breaking and regular news from East Africa’s vibrant aviation scene.
KABILA GETS BLASTED AT AFRANCOPHONE SUMMIT
Host Joseph Kabila of the Congo DR, ended up with egg all over his face when in an uncharacteristic broadside not just one but two key participants of the just ended Francophone Summit in Kinshasa first told him off before taking aim at the UN’s MONUSCO mission. And it was not in whispers in the corridors but from the lectern of the hall to the plenary, when he was branded to have stolen the elections, being an undemocratic despot and a serial abuser of human rights.
The French President, unlike his predecessor, wasted no time with niceties when he reportedly said that the situation in the Congo DR was: ‘totally unacceptable in terms of human rights, democracy and the recognition of the opposition’ before stumping his host further by publicly meeting opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who is under constant watch by the ever more totalitarian and paranoid regime.
Canada’s Prime Minister added insult to injury when wading yet more into the murky waters of Congolese politics when blasting from the podium about the: ‘complete unacceptability of failures in the electoral process and the abuse of human rights that are taking place in this country’ before repeating his clarion call on the UN’s MONUSCO mission of two years ago, saying what the everyone knows, namely that it was not effective. The UN mission in Congo had oftentimes come under fire when troops were found to trade weapons for minerals, diamonds and gold, displaying open bias on where to keep the peace and whom to pursue, making it all but clear they had almost become stooges of the Kinshasa regime and of powerful business interest groups. It also brought back recollections in Rwanda about the dismal failure of one Koffi Annan in 1994 to expand the UN’s peace keeping in Rwanda but through the withdrawal of the mission personnel opened the flood gates of the genocide which claimed up to a million lives in the space of 100 days before the country got liberated by the RPF.
In turn the UN was, not having learned a thing from past failures, swift to ‘leak’ once again allegations against Uganda and Rwanda from what was supposed to be a confidential and yet unpublished reports into the public domain, playing again into the hands of the Congo regime and their financial backers with huge interests in mining and logging. Blaming Rwanda and Congo however was a predictable escape route, equally ending in a dead end like before, as evidence is lacking that the M23 liberation movement in Eastern Congo was indeed benefiting from illegal support with weapons and ammunition by the governments in Kampala and Kigali. Fighting the killer militias which enjoy the Kinshasa regime’s hospitality and freedom to roam at will , the groups responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda continue to pose a serious threat to the border regions between Eastern Congo on one side and of Uganda and Rwanda on the other side, threatening not only security in both countries – allegedly regularly attempting to infiltrate newly trained terror recruits into neighbouring territories – and also posing a threat to the vibrant tourism industries centred around gorilla tracking in the border triangle.
Thus exposed as biased, Kigali and Kampala wasted no time in mounting their defense and categorically dismissing the leaks as works of fiction and bare of substance, knowing that they now have the backing of the East African Community member states. Part of the recent series of meetings of Great Lakes region countries, the EAC partners have finally understood the dubious role of the UN and the aggression by Kinshasa. Kabila, with the help of misguided ‘friends’ on the continent has been fending off demands for a regional peace keeping force to either take over or supplement the UN MONUSCO mission, and to be inserted into precisely those hotspots where regime troops and their own militias leave the genocide gangs well alone or at worst make financial arrangements for ‘royalties’ on what slave mining produces in riches.
It is good to note that opinion finally seems to shift towards accepting the reality on the ground and no longer take for granted the web of lies constructed by Kinshasa and co, realizing that were it not for the firm stand by Rwanda and Uganda in defending their territory, the entire region could have descended into chaos under the cover of which the mineral riches could be robbed with greater ease. Regional politics made plain in a rare excursion from tourism and conservation to the politics of regional power struggles. Watch this space.
ZANZIBAR DESCENDS IN VIOLENCE, AGAIN
A further outbreak of sectarian militant violence was reported late yesterday from the SpiceIslandof Zanzibar, leaving tourism stakeholders exasperated once again. Security organs fired live rounds into the air to control the riotous crowds which were burning tyres and throwing stones, while one section for a while stormed the offices of the ruling CCM party.
Also yesterday did island president Ali Mohamed Shein fire one minister who persistently had echoed called by outlawed separatist group Uamsho for the island to break away from the union with the mainland. Meanwhile in Dar es Salaam radical Muslim cleric Ponda Issa got arrested alongside some 120 supporters, after he had incited his followers to burn several Christian churches in Tanzania’s commercial capital city last week. This is a mirror image of what happened a few months ago in Zanzibar, where sectarian violence was fanned by radical clerics resulting in wide spread riots and church burnings too.
Tourism stakeholders have voiced serious concern, back then and more so now, over the spread of such radical ideologies which threaten the hitherto peaceful fabric of coexistence and mutual respect between religions in the United Republic of Tanzania. This could in particular on Zanzibar have a serious impact on tourism arrivals, should radicals continue to disturb the peace or like earlier in the year when radical factions, including a government minister threatened non Muslims with arrests if found eating during the fasting month of Ramadan or against women tourists wearing skimpy bikinis while others threatened outright violence and burnings of bars and restaurants.
Regular sources in Arusha expressed his dismay overnight that ‘… this should happen when we host a UNWTO Conference in Arusha and the Pan African Ornithological Convention. We in Tanzania are not like that, it is a very very small minority which is so radical and violent and they have a lot on their agenda. The majority in Zanzibar wants to remain in the union and on the mainland it is never an issue at all that we stay united with the islands as one country. We should be careful, with all the other issues here on conservation, poaching, asking CITES again to sell ivory and those many projects like highways through the parks and all not to kill the goose. We want more tourists, not less, we want people to find jobs in tourism and not lose them when the visitors stay away scared over murders in Dar and church burnings in Zanzibar. This is not what Tanzania does and stands for’.
As true as that is, and as much as it actually reflects on mainstream opinion by tourism stakeholders, these growing number of violent incidents must be contained and peace kept at all times, to keep locals and visitors safe. Dar and other towns need, again confirmed by contributions and feedback from tourism stakeholders and industry association leaders, additional police deployment patrolling incident hotspots, the installation of CCTV equipment and formation of a rapid response unit, the roll out of a dedicated tourism police and regular dialogue between the tourism industry and government to reverse such negative publicity and restore confidence in the country as a safe and desirable tourism destination. Can’t agree more – watch this space.
KENYA TOURISM SUFFERS FRESH BLOW WITH GULF AIR WITHDRAWAL
Phones were running hot last evening after posting the breaking news that Gulf Air was halting their flights from Bahrain to Nairobi, information received by many with incredulity until the official airline statement was then posted at the website www.gulfair.com for all to see and verify.
‘You are turning into a regular doom sayer’ argued one regular source from Nairobi as if the messenger, aka yours truly, was making the news rather than reporting about them.
Statistics from the Kenya Tourist Board, as published here a few days ago, showed an overall drop in arrivals, mainly caused by the sharp fall of tourist visitors to the Kenya coast, where several charter flights have been withdrawn, will be withdrawn or in two cased already announced flight starts were cancelled.
While generally traffic into Nairobi has shown a modest growth, the departure of Virgin in September and now of Gulf in November will undoubtedly make a dent into the Nairobi arrival statistics too and with elections coming up in March next year, the tourism industry has shown increasing signs of concern over the emerging trends. This development is something remarkably not shared though by Danson Mwazo, Minister for Tourism, who seems to believe still that Kenya would overtake the arrival and revenue records set in 2011 according to statements made in recent weeks.
Said a senior tourism stakeholder in response to the question posed about the likely impact of this latest airline proposal: ‘This is a very unexpected turn of events. I was at a Gulf Air dinner a few weeks ago at the Stanley and now this? Every airline coming to Nairobi markets Kenya abroad and across their network. This is important because it supports our own tourist board’s efforts. The private sector often partners with them and when we go to promote our country we do joint ventures, team up at venues abroad, get travel concessions. When such an airline goes it makes negative headlines. It casts doubts on others looking at Nairobi wondering why do they withdraw, what did we miss? There may be others to fill the gap in the future, we sure hope so but that might take concessions from our government. We want to know the truth about Qatar Airways which had intended to fly a new service via Nairobi to Kilimanjaro and from Dar es Salaam to Mombasa. What happened, what was promised to them and what were the circumstances of the last moment changes. Here our government can play a role in bringing in airlines, by lowering all those ridiculous charges the KCAA has raised by in part 400 percent and by taxation which makes aviation too expensive. Let us start there to create the circumstances for airlines wanting to come here.’
Space for improvements, space for overdue changes, space for bringing the cost of doing business in the tourism and aviation industry down. Watch this space in coming weeks to learn exactly what gaps the departure of the Flying Falcon, aka Gulf Air will open up.
THE BIRTH OF THE HEMINGWAYS BOUTIQUE COLLECTION
Once upon a time there was a seaside resort in Watamu called Seafarers, back in the 70’s one of the upcountry local crowd’s favourite hangouts at the Kenya coast, for deep sea fishing, frolicking in the sand, for ‘those’ weekends and lots more. But when the post August 1982 coup attempt crisis struck Kenya’s tourism industry, the Seafarers never fully recovered and was eventually sold and closed for a rebuilding and modernization.
What opened its doors then, was at the time nothing short from a phenomenal transformation, as the new Hemingways opened its doors. Same beach location, in large part the old staff thoroughly retrained or ‘retooled’ as we used to say but with a new flair in the air, catapulted from 3, or in the latter days of the Seafarers 2 stars to a proper 5 star rating, rooms, food, service and all.
Hemingways swiftly made new friends while retaining many of the old aficionados and became a hallmark name for Kenya’s coastal hospitality at its best.
Two and a half decades on the Hemingways in Watamu still forms the backbone of what has become a trademark name in Kenya, as a new boutique collection has started to emerge, first with the Ol Seki Hemingways, a truly luxurious tented safari camp with only 10 ‘canvas villas’ on the Naboishi Conservancy adjoining the world famous Masai Mara Game Reserve and in a few weeks with the latest addition to Nairobi’s upmarket scene, the Hemingways Nairobi.
In the tranquility of Karen, not far from the Karen Blixen Museum, the Giraffe Manor and the Nairobi National Park, a new 45 all suite property is now nearing completion, due for soft opening before the end of the year, and introducing a level of service, personal butler and valet included, rarely found even amongst the most sophisticated 5 star hotels in Nairobi if not the entire Kenya. In a recent meeting in Nairobi with Hemingways’ Chief Executive Alastair Addison, formerly Director of Operations for Serena Hotels, he made it quite clear that the new Hemingways Nairobi would aim to set new standards in accommodation, service and food, a statement surely to be made good of, knowing his eye for the exceptional and his attention to the minutest details.
The ‘new kid on the block’ will launch as a full member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, an exclusive club of top rated properties in some of the world’s greatest spots, all united by bringing levels of hospitality to their guests they would be hard pressed to find elsewhere in the same location.
It can be expected, that once the Hemingways Nairobi is operational, management will turn their attention to new ventures in new locations, widening the presence of the Hemingways Boutique Collection in other scenic parts of Kenya, or who knows, even the wider region in the future.
Watch this space as Hemingways Nairobi moves towards pre- and soft opening status and then get a first hand experience report from personal visit.
GULF AIR’S NAIROBI ROUTE – SADLY NOT TO BE
Following the question raised this morning about GULF AIR’S AFRICA FLIGHTS – TO BE OR NOT TO BE I can now confirm that effective 13th of November the airline will suspend their flights between Bahrain and Nairobi indefinitely. The Flying Falcon had made many friends amongst passengers traveling with them via Bahrain to Europe, the Gulf where GF operates the largest network or into India and Asia, for their excellent fares and the presence of a Sky Chef in the award winning business class, providing culinary delights in a dining room some 35.000 feet in the sky.
The airline expressed their deep regret over the suspension of the only remaining destination in East Africa, caused by the unfolding restructuring of the company, a condition attached to a half a billion US Dollar bail out by the Bahraini government, which was announced yesterday in Manama. Passengers booked to Nairobi after the 12th November and from Nairobi after the 13th November already will be contacted as of tomorrow by the Gulf Air office to offer either a full refund or find an alternative for them to reach their destination. A regular source at the Gulf Air office in Bahrain shared the deep regret and mentioned that once the restructuring is completed, existing routes will once again be looked at to determine if a return will be financially viable.
As seen in Uganda, where Gulf Air withdrew from the Entebbe route in February this year under similar circumstances, the airline’s faithful travelers will be sad to see the Flying Falcon disappear from the Kenyan skies. From this correspondent it is a sad and yet fond farewell to Gulf Air, hoping that one day we can meet again at an airport near us here in East Africa. Happy Landings.
GULF AIR’S AFRICA FLIGHTS – TO BE OR NOT TO BE
The long awaited approval by the Bahraini government of nearly half a billion US Dollars into Gulf Air might have stark consequences when according to a source from Manama the matter comes to the kingdom’s parliament for discussion. Worst scenario projections are that apart from flights to London and Paris all other long and longer haul destinations may have to go, in a move reminiscent to – arguably much smaller – Air Seychelles of late last and early this year, where all long haul destinations were axed.
Such a radical cut could also see a major reduction of the airlines’ staff, from the present over 3.800 to below 2.000. Also under review may be pending aircraft orders, which according to records available include at least 20 Airbus A330 and some 16 B787 Dreamliners.
Of immediate concern here in East Africa though would be the flights to Nairobi, which unlike those to Entebbe, axed in early 2012, are doing very well but may nevertheless be under review as part of an overall reorientation and restructuring of Gulf Air. The airline has many faithful travelers from not just Kenya but across Eastern Africa who connect onto the GF flights in Nairobi, persuaded by excellent inflight service and attractive fares, but also the easy transfers via Bahrain’s compact airport.
Some aviation pundits are already predicting that GF will eventually need to reduce to a regional carrier serving what remains to be the largest network across the Gulf, a move which however would require teaming up with other airlines who would need to feed long haul traffic via Bahrain.
A statement by Gulf Air welcomed the capital injection which will allow meeting debt obligations and ‘meet its future restructuring costs. Working together with the government of Bahrain and its shareholder, Mumtalakat Holding Co., to review its existing fleet and network, Gulf Air will implement an accelerated strategy and aggressive restructuring programme to achieve more dramatic cost and liability reductions’.
Time will tell where this one will go, so watch this space for more news.
OL PEJETA’S ANTI POACHING EFFORTS GO AIRBORNE
The killing of Max, an almost tame rhino on the sprawling Ol Pejeta Conservancy last year, marked the start of series of countermeasures since developed and refined on the conservancy, to strengthen anti poaching capabilities. 32 rangers from Ol Pejeta were selected and trained as police reservists, now able to carry automatic rifles after graduating from their course.
The new status saw these rangers then become the nucleus of a new well armed anti poaching unit on the estate, which works hand in hand with local law enforcement and the Kenya Wildlife Service to offer effective logistical support and provide numbers as soon as a poaching alert is issued.
Facilitated with ground transport the added element of airborne deployment has been introduced, providing a helicopter to airlift an instant response team to given locations, where poachers can then be engaged. 5 rangers with KPR status are now kept on standby for immediate deployment, should assistance be requested by the Kenya Police or KWS.
The results, compared with a year ago, are nothing short but excellent so far, as not one rhino was poached on Ol Pejeta in 2012 compared to 5 in 2011, and the single attempt this year effectively thwarted. Over the past months, 8 poachers were thus intercepted, arrested and are now facing prosecution. Well done to Richard Vigne and his team on Ol Pejeta (www.olpejetaconservancy.org) for this remarkable effort.
LIVING WITH WILDLIFE COMES A STEP CLOSER
The Mt. Kenya Wildlife Estate, located on 1.000 acres of land along the boundary of the sprawling Ol Pejeta Conservancy, has finally moved off the planning stages when construction was formally started with the breaking of the ground.
Designed to mitigate the impact on the environment, in an area where water is precious, the new posh gated estate near the town of Nanyuki in Central Kenya will eventually comprise 100 residential homes and related community services under a concept where wildlife retains the right of way. The homes are set in the bush, the underlying theme on the estate being that ‘wildlife has priority’. The design of the development and all planned activities will be deliberately wildlife-friendly and there will be no internal fences, allowing game to roam at will. At the same time, home owners will enjoy all the facilities of a well thought out residential community, including a club house and swimming pool, cycling and walking tracks.Owners at MKWE, where 3 and 4/5 bedroom residences will sell between 29.9and 33 million Kenya Shillings per unit, will benefit from concessionary access into the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, through a private gate on the Estate. It is understood from a communication received, that over 50 residences have already been sold ahead of construction start and that keen interest persists for the balance of the planned homes.
Richard Vigne, CEO of Ol Pejeta Conservancy, in past interaction pointed to the sustained income the estate will create for wildlife conservation and community work and related the extensive mitigating measures employed to minimize the impact of the new residential part of Ol Pejeta through the use of solar technology and the deliberate omission of private swimming pools, instead providing one at a communal meeting place for residents. For more information on the estate visit www.mountkenyawe.com
FERRY STRIKE OFF AS CEO FORCED TO APOLOGIZE TO STAFF
In what amounts to a humiliating climbdown was the CEO of Kenya Ferry Services last weekend forced to publicly apologize to his staff, left with no choice by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport Cyrus Njiru. The coastal population, and tourists alike, were spared the nightmare of a fully fledged strike after days of slow go had already caused long queues and inconvenienced Mombasa and South Coast residents. The Permanent Secretary also ensured that pending bonuses worth 11 million Kenya Shillings were paid immediately to the staff of the ferry company, something management had dragged its feet over for months at end. Musa Hassan, who had reportedly walk out of the negotiations last Thursday, in another loss of face was also ordered to resume talks with staff and union, as his own position is becoming increasingly untenable. The next round of negotiations, according to a Mombasa based source, is due for October 19th until which ferry operations are expected to run smoothly. Should no agreement be reached by then however, it can be expected that the strike threat would be renewed with another notice given and slow go in the build up to it. Watch this space.
JAMBO JET GETS LICENSE FOR 22 ROUTES
The formal notice filed in the Kenya Gazette on Friday made the decision of the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority public and affirmed what the aviation grapevine had been whispering about for days now, Jambo Jet is now a reality and has traffic rights for 22 routes across Kenya and Eastern Africa.
Kenya Airways, with the license now given, is expected to react vigorously to the competition on domestic and regional routes and will undoubtedly be ready ahead of the launch of FastJet later in the year, which intends to take to the air on the Dar es Salaam to Nairobi route with up to three flights a day.
Domestically Jambo Jet will be able to operate from Nairobi to Mombasa, Malindi, Eldoret and Kisumu, routes presently flown by Kenya Airways directly, but also to such other destinations as Lamu, an aerodrome not able to accommodate the jet aircraft used by KQ and likely to be transferred to Jambo Jet, i.e. the Embraer E170. This opens room for speculation if Kenya Airway’s lower cost operation Jambo Jet may in fact introduce turboprop aircraft, which in the past allowed KQ to fly to Lamu before going all jet.
Regionally have destinations like Juba, Entebbe, Goma, Kisangani from which KQ withdrew earlier this year, but also Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Mwanza, Bujumbura, Kigali and as far as Antananarivo and Hargeisa been granted to Jambo Jet, in direct competition with privately owned airlines currently flying there.
A dedicated team has been put into place by Kenya Airways’ top management to support the Jambo Jet launch and with the license now in the bag, they will be working flat out to attain the Air Operator Certificate from the KCAA, being able to count on the fullest support by KQ to move to flight status on the fast track.
‘This license will allow Kenya Airways to use some of their aircraft like the Embraer 170 to fly certain routes now as Jambo Jet and in line with lower cost operations offer either no catering on board or else passengers may have to buy their drinks. It is important for KQ to start very soon to be in the skies before FastJet can begin and then offer fares which those cannot beat, mainly because the larger Airbus A319 used by FastJet will cost more to operate than an E170. I think flying will become cheaper for thos who only want to get from point A to point B without the full service on Kenya Airways flights, like a business class or free meals and drinks. I think the strategy team at Kenya Airways has been keeping a close watch on market developments to pre-empt major new competition gain a strong foothold in their backyard. Domestically it will throw the gauntlet to other airlines like Jetlink and a few others, where again the fares on offer will be hard to beat for them. If the fares are the same and the flights are conveniently scheduled and one can earn frequent flyer miles, why then fly with another airline many travelers will ask themselves. This will make Jambo Jet immediately a strong force and will for sure give others a headache how to counter with fares and services. Mind you, they MUST make a profit while Jambo Jet can count on the deeper pockets of KQ for the time being.
Also let us be candid here, the recent staff reorganization now comes into a different light with this development. If Kenya Airways vests a good number of their flights on those routes to Jambo Jet, they needed to adjust their direct staffing requirements as Jambo Jet will have their own crews at different terms and conditions to what KQ has. In fact it is an open secret that cabin crews will be sourced from a separate company, keeping the new airline’s exposure to stringent labour contracts like at KQ to a minimu.
Kenya Airways has gotten a lot of uninformed criticism over the past weeks and I think you are right to point the fingers in some of your articles to politicians, that lot should just stay out of business because the mess they make in our politics has no place in business’ said a regular source from Nairobi when discussing the development over the weekend on mail and by phone. At the same time did a number of other regular contributors decry the level of regulatory charges and taxes levied on tickets, which in some cases now runs into a multiple of fares proposed by the lower cost carriers, those already flying and those soon to take to the skies, which in their opinion now requires the East African Community to rationalize their aviation operations too and do away with the costly and unproductive duplication and multiplication of national regulators in favour of a regional regulatory body with only branches in the respective member states. That would not only allow to share meager resources but also offer the chance for immense cost savings as the entire ‘back office’ would be shared while allowing to shift attention to the operational departments and strengthen monitoring and supervision.
One thing is certain though that the entry of Kenya Airways into the regional lower cost league will radically alter the ball game and ultimately benefit travelers with lower fares and yet the assurance to be flying within the framework of an airline which has stood the test of time. Watch this space for breaking news as and when it happens.