Kenya Airways plans for low cost carrier come under public scrutiny


Kenya Airways plans for the launch of their own low cost airline, Jambo Jet, will reportedly be subjected to public scrutiny, as the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority has invited the public and competitors in the airline industry to submit their comments, observations and objections at a hearing set for later this week. A decision by KCAA is then expected to be taken late this month, which is keenly expected by local and regional aviation observers.
Intended to operate both domestic as well as regional routes, Jambo Jet would compete head on with privately owned local airlines such as Jetlink, which equally flies domestic as well as selected regional routes. While it is presently unclear, if the Embraer aircraft Jambo Jet is expected to use will be branded separately or else carry the Kenya Airways livery, the crews are definitely expected to be recruited from outside the present pool of pilots and flight attendants, in order to lower the cost base for the planned carrier. Said a regular contributor to aviation topics from Nairobi over the weekend: Low cost is really the wrong word to be used here, lowering cost is probably describing the whole issue better. In Europe the low cost airlines like Easy Jet and Ryan Air use selected airports for point to point flights, not the main hubs other airlines go to but maybe some distance away. Passengers take the bus or train to get there and the cost of operations in such places is much lower than at the main hubs. Those airports are keen for traffic and offer attractively priced service packages. Here in East Africa, there are no options for airlines. They all have to use JKIA, Kilimanjaro or Entebbe and the cost of handling for a so called low cost carrier is the same as for KQ or BA. So there are no savings to be found. The only savings are via lower labour cost but even that is a big problem now because to start with there are not enough qualified and experienced cockpit crew available. KQ has to hire expatriate pilots because they cannot get enough qualified Kenyans or East Africans. It is maybe only over the cabin crew recruitment they can find some savings, and by smart deployment which has crews home in the evening and not needing hotel accommodation outside their base.
In any case, while for instance Jetlink will have to charge such fares as to meet their expenses, Kenya Airways has the option, because of larger capacity, to set aside some seats on each flight to be offered at special fares, like last year they offered stand by fares, no prebooking, you arrive, there is space, you buy your ticket and go. Those they could sell at even lower cost than other private airlines. It will be interesting to hear what objections are coming and then how KCAA will decide
There is some speculation that the airline may use Embraer 170 aircraft to launch Jambo Jet flights as and when the regulators have given their green light and possibly transfer the bulk of their domestic operations to the new outfit. This in the opinion of a regular source could leave the airline with only selected flights for instance to Mombasa operated by KQ outright and linked to their main hub and spoke operation periods while all other departures would be under the banner of the new outfit. Decision time it is this month, so be sure to watch this space for breaking news, as and when available.

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