CHANGE AT FLY 540 UGANDA
A public notice in the Daily Nation of Kenya and the Daily Monitor in Kampala has tipped off this correspondent and confirmed earlier rumours that Jackie Arkle, the soul and good spirit of Fly 540 in Uganda, has left the airline under unclear circumstances.
Jackie arrived in Uganda after two years at Fly 540s head office in Nairobi where she was responsible for sales and marketing and from where she put the airline visibly into the public domain. Upon her transfer to Uganda as country manager in January 2010 she was the one putting Fly 540 on the map in Uganda and inspite of regular operational issues kept travel agents and regular travelers on board through her charming personality and never giving up in promising improvements in on time performance. This was often aggravated by the use of aircraft other than the CRJ jet, such as the Dash 8 or even the B 1900 Beechcraft, leaving the marketing and sales staff hanging out to dry over such operational changes beyond their control.
It is understood that Air Uganda and Kenya Airways personnel are on a charm offensive in Kampala trying to exploit the situation which could result in a sharp reduction of load factors for Fly 540 on the route where they have to compete with Kenya Airways four flights a day and Air Ugandas three flights a day by offering only two flights a day on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday while on Monday, Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday they only operate one service a day. With competition in Kenya and the wider region getting quite cut throat, following Kenya Airways aggressive re-entry into the domestic market last year and their open option of forming their own LCC under Jambo Jet, competition has heated up in recent months and it will be survival for the financially fittest only, as the shoulder / mid season for Kenyas beach resorts is now approaching and loads across the jet network between Nairobi, Mombasa, Malindi and Kisumu reduce.
Jackie herself was tight lipped over the reasons for leaving the airline, reportedly on advice of her solicitors, indicating that this development will lead to a very likely court case, especially following the nasty of going public with an advert the way the airlines top executives chose to do.
Fly 540 is the first regional self professed LCC in East Africa and operates an extensive domestic network in Kenya, within and to Tanzania and to Uganda, while also serving regional routes in the wider region. The group has also established operations in Angola and is reportedly working on setting up other LCCs in West Africa, but with few details on progress made so far inspite of this being on the drawing board for some time now. Wherever Jackie goes, she will be an asset of great value and this correspondent for one is sad to see her leave Kampala and return to Kenya.