(eTN) – The formal notice filed in the Kenya Gazette on Friday made the decision of the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority public and affirmed what the aviation grapevine had been whispering about for days now, Jambo Jet is now a reality and has traffic rights for 22 routes across Kenya and Eastern Africa.
Kenya Airways (KQ), with the license now given, is expected to react vigorously to the competition on domestic and regional routes and will undoubtedly be ready ahead of the launch of FastJet later in the year, which intends to take to the air on the Dar es Salaam to Nairobi route with up to three flights a day.
Domestically, Jambo Jet will be able to operate from Nairobi to Mombasa, Malindi, Eldoret, and Kisumu, routes presently flown by Kenya Airways directly, but also to such other destinations as Lamu, an aerodrome not able to accommodate the jet aircraft used by KQ and likely to be transferred to Jambo Jet, i.e., the Embraer E170. This opens room for speculation if Kenya Airway’s lower-cost operation, Jambo Jet, may in fact introduce turboprop aircraft, which in the past allowed KQ to fly to Lamu before going all jet.
Regionally, destinations like Juba, Entebbe, Goma, and Kisangani from which KQ withdrew earlier this year, also Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Mwanza, Bujumbura, and Kigali, and as far as Antananarivo and Hargeisa, have been granted to Jambo Jet, in direct competition with privately-owned airlines currently flying there.
A dedicated team has been put into place by Kenya Airways’ top management to support the Jambo Jet launch and with the license now in the bag, they will be working flat out to attain the Air Operator Certificate from the KCAA, being able to count on the fullest support by KQ to move to flight status on the fast track.
“This license will allow Kenya Airways to use some of their aircraft like the Embraer 170 to fly certain routes now as Jambo Jet and in line with lower-cost operations offer of either no catering on board or else passengers may have to buy their drinks. It is important for KQ to start very soon to be in the skies before FastJet can begin and then offer fares which those cannot beat, mainly because the larger Airbus A319 used by FastJet will cost more to operate than an E170. I think flying will become cheaper for those who only want to get from point A to point B without the full service on Kenya Airways flights, like a business class or free meals and drinks. I think the strategy team at Kenya Airways has been keeping a close watch on market developments to pre-empt major new competition gain a strong foothold in their backyard. Domestically it will throw the gauntlet to other airlines like Jetlink and a few others, where again the fares on offer will be hard to beat for them. If the fares are the same and the flights are conveniently scheduled and one can earn frequent flyer miles, why then fly with another airline, many travelers will ask themselves. This will make Jambo Jet immediately a strong force and will for sure give others a headache how to counter with fares and services. Mind you, they MUST make a profit while Jambo Jet can count on the deeper pockets of KQ for the time being.
“Also let us be candid here, the recent staff reorganization now comes into a different light with this development. If Kenya Airways vests a good number of their flights on those routes to Jambo Jet, they needed to adjust their direct staffing requirements as Jambo Jet will have their own crews at different terms and conditions to what KQ has. In fact it is an open secret that cabin crews will be sourced from a separate company, keeping the new airline’s exposure to stringent labor contracts like at KQ to a minimum.
“Kenya Airways has gotten a lot of uninformed criticism over the past weeks, and I think you are right to point the fingers in some of your articles to politicians, that lot should just stay out of business, because the mess they make in our politics has no place in business,” said a regular source from Nairobi when discussing the development over the weekend on mail and by phone. At the same time, a number of other regular contributors decry the level of regulatory charges and taxes levied on tickets, which in some cases now runs into a multiple of fares proposed by the lower-cost carriers, those already flying and those soon to take to the skies, which in their opinion now requires the East African Community to rationalize their aviation operations too and do away with the costly and unproductive duplication and multiplication of national regulators in favor of a regional regulatory body with only branches in the respective member states. That would not only allow to share meager resources but also offer the chance for immense cost savings as the entire “back office” would be shared while allowing to shift attention to the operational departments and strengthen monitoring and supervision.
One thing is certain though, that the entry of Kenya Airways into the regional lower-cost league will radically alter the ball game and ultimately benefit travelers with lower fares and yet the assurance to be flying within the framework of an airline, which has stood the test of time.