Just weeks into the new route between Kilimanjaro and Nairobi, Fastjet has today operated the last flight between the two airports, with sources close to the airline suggesting the suspension came as a result of poor loadfactors.
When the route was launched on January 11, aviation pundits immediately speculated over the size of the aircraft used, an Airbus A319, with common consensus at the time that a smaller aircraft would be better suited on the low-density route.
Flights between Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, however, continue to be operated, with a presently single daily frequency.
“There simply are not enough passengers between Nairobi and Kilimanjaro to fill an A319 with at least 70 percent. Kenya Airways uses an Embraer 190 and Precision operates an ATR on this route, all smaller aircraft and their load factors on this route are far from full house. No airline can afford to fly planes with low load factors while charging such low fares. The challenge for Fastjet is their single aircraft type model which for some routes is simply too large. When they launch in Kenya they will also realize that the A319 may be too large for some of the routes they were granted in their Air Service Licence. I would not be surprised if they are not sooner or later coming up with a second aircraft type for routes which need to be developed or where the competition has a strong hold on the market,” commented a regular aviation source from Nairobi earlier in the day.
Another source added: “Most of the traffic between NBO and JRO comes from international travelers who fly via Nairobi into East Africa and prefer to fly to Arusha to start their Tanzania safari from there. There simply is not enough point to point traffic to sustain the operation of a large plane. A traveler from say Arusha takes an hour to the airport, needs to check in two hours before the flight and then it takes about 40 minutes to Nairobi. Those travelling by road via Namanga, where a new highway makes road transport safer and faster so people may think why fly when the overall journey time is the same? This is not like flying from Dar to Mbeya or Mwanza so the route research maybe was not the best.”
The market is now keenly watching when, or if, Fastjet will be launching the promised flights from Zanzibar to Nairobi anytime soon or when a second flight between Dar es Salaam and Nairobi is announced. Both domestically and regionally, Fastjet, however, remains the airline carrying the most passengers within and from Tanzania, suggesting that the business model does work on routes where sufficient passenger numbers help fill their planes.
Meanwhile, Fastjet has been nominated as one of a handful of low-cost carriers (LCC) for the “Best LCC in Africa” at the upcoming World Travel Awards and voting continues until February 29.