Flying within but also from Kenya will cost passengers twice as much from July onwards, as KAA once again contemptuously brushed aside objections from airlines to reconsider their proposals, which were yesterday approved by the countrys finance minister.
International flight charges will double from US Dollars 20 to US Dollars 40 while domestic departures will from July cost 500 Kenya Shillings instead of the current 300 Kenya Shillings per sector flown.
Tourism analysts were swift to point out that making holiday packages more expensive through unilateral and often seen as arbitrary charges come at the wrong time, as the country awaits the final announcement on an election date, which is bound to see an impact on tourism arrivals, considering the post election situation in early 2008.
Airlines flying in particular into Nairobis Jomo Kenyatta International Airport are constantly complaining about the congestion in the terminal, a constant source of discontent amongst passengers too, and the long delays in getting the airport modernization to a completion. KAA is entirely responsible for these delays and has not even started a serious process for the construction of a long overdue second runway. Last year we had repeated power outages, an explosion of a boiler in Nairobi and a fire in the lounge in Mombasa, passenger lounges are congested, gates are congested, parking for aircraft is congested. The cost increases are due to simply bad management by previous management and I leave it to you to speculate over the reasons for what they did. KAA does still not deliver a world class service but they treat airlines and passengers as a cash cow to milk forever. A few weeks ago they had a strike mostly over poor working conditions and lousy wages for their staff and now they see passengers as their salvation by doubling fees. Airlines are already struggling with high fuel cost and if we lose passengers over such fee increases they will be to blame blasted a regular aviation source from Nairobi overnight, leaving no doubt how angry the mood is against the KAA at present.
Another source added: You might remember that the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority last year also unilaterally increased a lot of fees, some of them by nearly 400 percent. That has raised the expenditure for Kenyan airlines and airlines flying to the country considerably. Our regulators and the airport authority risk to make aviation too expensive for many to afford the tickets then and the cost of aviation fuel and the competition within Kenya and on our international routes will make financial survival a big question. For sure our government does not listen and whatever they call consultations with stakeholders from the private sector is simply a window dress, they do not consult, the dictate their terms take it or leave it.
The Kenya Airports Authority could not be reached for comment but a source close to them indicated that raising fees and charges was the only way to finance and pay for the expansion of the airport. The cost of putting up more terminal buildings, expanding aprons and making a second runway happen are just too great. Those facilities are needed, Kenya Airways has made it very clear that their expansion is directly linked to KAAs ability to provide expanded infrastructure in good time, and international airlines want to come to Nairobi but are hesitant to commit because of the congestion. If tourism is to grow our airport needs to grow even faster. And to accomplish that KAA needs money. Maybe the timing is an issue but the principle stands, you want better facilities then be ready to pay for it. Right now, true enough, JKIA is not in good shape but everyone can now see that progress is made with the new buildings and all. And when it is all ready it will have been worth the cost of it. And by the way, Entebbe has been charging 40 US Dollars for many years and they have seen passenger growth. It is a matter of some small financial adjustments on tickets but the benefits of it will be big.
Understandably different views with only one major agreement, that the timing of the rise in fees will be most untimely indeed. Watch this space for regular and breaking news from East Africas aviation sector.