Kenya’s transport ministry gives aviation regulators a dressing down to force Lamu runway approval


(Posted 09th January 2016)

A few days ago did Jambojet’s CEO Willem Hondius, without blinking an eye, announce the withdrawal of his airline from the Lamu route, citing the regulators’ slow pace in approving for operations the extended part of the runway at the Manda aerodrome and forcing his planes to make the trip half empty.

The tactic did work however as yesterday afternoon the Kenyan aviation regulators lifted the NOTAM, restricting the use of the runway to only 850 metres following more public pressure and emerging calls that those responsible should be sacked.

Unlike in neighbouring Tanzania, where the new President John Magufuli started his term of office by immediately going after lazy and corrupt officials – a number of high ranking Tanzania Revenue Authority and Tanzania Ports Authority staff are now facing charges in court after losing their jobs – has this culture not taken root in Kenya as yet.

The Kenyan regulators have been the region’s most notorious, known to delay and defer decisions for months at end, with this runway extension approval just the latest in a long list of erroneous decisions or rather decisions not taken in a timely manner.

As you suggested in your article there was more to it than met our eyes. If however these so called regulators are to blame then should KCAA not be forced to pay compensation to Jambojet for their losses on the Lamu route? Can one not sue individual staff for negligence and damages? Anyway, the best solution to clear the rot at KCAA is to sack a few and not just bosses but also departmental heads and their accomplices. This back and forth over the Lamu route makes Kenya look like a banana republic’ wrote one regular source when commenting while on night shift at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

It is now clear that the Kenya Airport Authority, after completing the work on the runway extension, just like Jambojet, waited for the regulators to approve the added length for immediate operations but they clearly had not taken into account that KCAA’s clocks and calendars were not in harmony with anyone else’s.

Other usually reliable sources, inspite of the late hour, confirmed that the Kenyan Ministry of Transport had given KCAA a do or die directive to clear the runway extension, something which obviously did the trick as the lifting of the restrictions came almost instantly thereafter.

The visit of President Kenyatta to Lamu no doubt had something to do with this change of mind at the KCAA. When they realized they were being hung out to dry and blamed they felt the heat and relented. President Kenyatta must have gotten an earful from local leaders in Lamu about this deplorable situation. He is looking for votes at the coast and such affirmative action helps. Now if only he could sack a few of these rotten characters he might get more votes still’ quipped another source from the coast.

Jambojet will now continue to fly to Lamu but the airline has also indicated a change in routings, combining Lamu with the seaside resort town of Malindi in a triangular routing to make sure passenger numbers add up and make the flights financially viable. This change will according to information received come into effect next Friday.

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