Kenya’s main LCC plans to spread wings into the region


(Posted 27th June 2016)

Jambojet, Kenya Airways’ low cost subsidiary, has been flying on domesti routes for some time now but was last year also given the designation to fly into the Eastern African region.
Out of Nairobi does the airline serve the coastal destinations of Lamu, Malindi, Mombasa and Ukunda while also operating flights to Eldoret and Kisumu.
Comments attributed to the airline’s CEO Willem Hondius however now suggest that the airline could turn its attention to widening its network and begin flights into the Eastern African region, which if correct will no doubt intensify the battle for the skies with airlines like Fastjet, also a low cost carrier presently operating out of Dar es Salaam to Nairobi and Entebbe, while serving Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, Mwanza and Mbeya on domestic routes. Lusaka, Harare, Lilongwe and Johannesburg are additional destinations FN flies to out of Dar.
Jambojet’s air service license allows them, subject to landing rights from the respective countries’ civil aviation and transport authorities, to target Entebbe, Juba and Dar es Salaam, among other overall 9 regional destinations.
For East Africa’s aviation pundits it is of particular interest that Entebbe is a likely early target, as Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni last week laid into airlines of EAC member states and NCIP countries, short for Northern Corridor Integration Projects, otherwise also known as the coalition of the willing in the EAC to fast track various developments.
President Museveni declared that the country felt let down over the high level of airfares when he told his new cabinet that the formation of a national airline therefore should be a priority, no doubt rattling the cages of the leading regional carriers from Addis to Nairobi.
Should indeed Jambojet opt to begin operations from Nairobi to Entebbe – Kenya Airways presently flies five times a day and serves both point to point traffic but most notably connecting traffic into the wider region and the rest of Africa – it could indeed lead to lower fare levels, taking the wind out of plans to relaunch a Ugandan national carrier.
When you look at traffic numbers between Nairobi and Entebbe, remember that Air Uganda, before the Ugandan CAA killed that airline off, flew three times on working days and twice over the weekend alongside Kenya Airways’ five daily frequencies.
Now there are some smaller airlines from Kenya on the route but their passenger numbers are relatively low as they only offer point to point to Nairobi, no frequent flyer bonuses, less desirable departure times and most important, they operate oldish aircraft. Now were Jambojet to come to Entebbe they would probably start off with one flight a day before expanding to twice a day but the main challenge for them will be the aircraft they use. Their B737’s are probably too large with over 140 seats to make economic sense and their two leased Bombardier Q400, with less than 80 seats more suitable, are fully occupied with flights in Kenya. They would need to source additional aircraft and when that happens it will give us a better idea how they intend to roll out into the region. Air Uganda’s initial success was based on their use of CRJ200’s with just 50 seats and break even on such an aircraft is much easier to accomplish than on a relatively larger Boeing. Turboprops are also planes of choice because they too operate at lower cost than a jet and breakeven is accomplished with more ease than when using larger jets. If Entebbe becomes their first destination, they will clearly lay down a challenge to any new upstart from Uganda because the more crowded the skies are, the bigger will be the challenge to a start up airline to capture that vital traffic share. Air Uganda took several years and those fundamentals have not changed much‘ offered a regular source as his opinion when discussing Jambojet’s apparent expansion plans.
The speculation over Jambojet’s regional plans was further fueled when news broke over the weekend that the airline employed a fully fledged CFO amid rumours that Kenya’s main LCC had gone active in the market to source additional aircraft.
Out of Entebbe does RwandAir presently also fly twice a day to and from Nairobi under fifth freedom rights and is said to be eying a third daily flight, made more viable through the triangular routing which always includes one leg either to or from Kigali.
Watch this space for breaking and regular aviation news from across the entire Eastern African region and Indian Ocean islands.