FASTJET SUSPENDS ROUTES AS REALITY HITS HOME
The question is making the round in Tanzania’s aviation circles if FastJet has bitten off more than it can chew, when news broke that the airline has suspended flights from Kilimanjaro to Mwanza and from Kilimanjaro to Zanzibar. The Zanzibar flights were only launched recently, with full mouthed statements as seems customary for the upstart and the suspension is now a huge embarrassment to the airline’s management and owners.
The following mail was availed, which was apparently sent out by the airline in addition to which flights on these sector beyond the 17th April no longer appear on the company website when attempting to book:
Dear Travel Partner,
Please be advised, we have suspended the following flights.
Kilimanjaro to Mwanza flight FN 141/142
Kilimanjaro to Zanzibar flight FN 131/132
Flights will be suspended from 18th April to 30th June.
Passengers will be fully refunded at our offices. Please make
sure, if any of your staff is collecting refund of passengers
behalf, he/she should have ID and the clients ticket
Also Flight FN 155/156 Dar – Kilimanjaro – DAR has been
cancelled effective 18th April.
Passengers will be relocated to the earlier flights from Dar
to Kilimanjaro flight FN 151 and in the later flight from
Kilimanjaro to Dar flight FN 154.
We apologize for the inconveniences caused and thanks
for your support.
Aviation observers attribute the suspension of these flights to the airline’s over optimistic market assessments but also to a very likely market reaction to the way the carrier continues to advertise its services by mentioning only the actual fare but failing to display the full cost of a ticket, which when taxes and fees are added – including baggage fees on check in which continue to surprise travelers – end up in a cost far greater to the passengers than the adverts suggest.
Other airlines, like Precision Air and Air Tanzania in turn have been praised for freely and frankly advertising the actual cost a passenger has to pay when flying with them to the same destinations FastJet has been serving, as well as to other parts of the country where FastJet cannot fly with their Airbus aircraft, making the upstart stand out like a sore thumb as the ethics and morals of such advertising practices continue to raise eyebrows.
No doubt will howls of outrage come again from the usual suspects, sycophants and mouthpieces, paid or not paid, blaming the messenger rather than addressing the fundamental issues which have plagued the airline since the erstwhile partnership with Fly540 ended in angry exchanges, a flood of rash statements and courtcases in the UK and in East Africa. The negative publicity generated by the breakdown of the union has dented the whiter than thou attitude shown by senior executives of the airline and left the image of invincibility, peddled by them, in tatters, made worse now by having to suspend flights launched only weeks ago amid great fanfare.
There is also growing speculation that the airline is bleeding money as a result of massive overheads caused by the employment of a larger number of expatriates than is usually the case with airlines in Tanzania. The cost for their aircraft too are piling up as they are clearly underutilized and apparently fail to fly the projected hours needed to make financial ends meet.
Meanwhile in Kenya, which was the initial target for FastJet as a far more lucrative market for a start up airline than Tanzania which according to a reliable source was a distant second choice, have aviation observers noted that not much progress seems to have been made by FastJet to actually commence flights from Nairobi to domestic destinations like Mombasa, Kisumu, Malindi and Eldoret. This allows in particular national airline Kenya Airways to continue strengthening their domestic market position by creating customer loyalty with all the benefits their frequent flyer programme ‘Flying Blue’ is offering their faithful customers. Only two weeks ago was it in fact reported here that KQ was adding extra flights to Kisumu, making a market entry by FastJet in Kenya, as and whenever that might happen, even more difficult.
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