The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, often seen as a preventer rather than a promoter of broader air transport into Kenya and within Kenya, has finally gazetted the formal notice that Fastjet has been granted an Air Service Licence. The matter had been pending, as did the entire application process, since October last year when, according to letters seen, KCAA had approved the ASL application, was due to gazette it and then took another 6 plus months to finally do so.
This, as had previously been suggested here, stinks to heaven and had fuelled allegation after allegation that the KCAA was a willing party to keeping Fastjet out of the Kenyan skies for as long as they could.
The main application itself was kept in the bottom drawer for nearly two years, a damning indictment of the role the KCAA played, including the long time denial of landing rights into Nairobi by Fastjet Tanzania under the flimsiest of reasons.
‘Being thorough is one thing, but this entire saga suggests bias and prejudice if not worse on the part of the KCAA. How anyone can even try justify why the Fastjet applications, here in Kenya and from Tanzania, took so long, will have a mountain to move to convince us in the industry. Some local companies with literally no capacity at all applied after Fastjet and got their licences and are they even flying? You are right to expose such bad corporate behaviour, because they need to be taken to task, must explain. Here in Kenya people wonder why suddenly Rwanda and Uganda did huge railway and pipeline deals with Tanzania and it is the behaviour of our bureaucrats no doubt which turned the tide. Tanzania had repeatedly warned Kenya over the Fastjet applications for landing rights from Dar to Nairobi.
They saw an opening to wrestle the pipeline deal and the railway deal from us here in Kenya and I personally blame the people who obstructed them for so long to be for a good part responsible for such unfortunate developments. Do they care, NOT AT ALL! As long as they get fat salaries and allowances and all, they don’t give a damn about anything’ let a regular aviation contributor from Nairobi once again fly, after in the past expressing his disgust very candidly too.
Now that the Air Service Licence has been formally gazetted – of course with the KCAA one can never be sure what other spanners they plan to throw into the Fastjet works – is the airline now applying for an Air Operator Certificate, in short called AOC.
Mr. Jimmy Kibati, previously based in Dar es Salaam, has reportedly moved to Nairobi to oversee this process and get the airline to flight status.
Destinations granted to Fastjet by KCAA, but subject to final approval by the Ministry of Transport in Nairobi, will be among others to Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret on domestic routes while regionally was Fastjet granted permission to fly to Entebbe, Juba, Addis Ababa and Johannesburg, but again subject to government approvals.
Fastjet already holds fifth freedom rights granted by Uganda for the route to Nairobi but has been unable to take up such flights due to barriers placed in their way by the Kenyan authorities, similar to the obstacles created by the Kenyan aviation preventers for RwandAir. The Rwandan national airline is now operating two daily flights between Entebbe and Nairobi but reportedly still subject to a capacity cap, a slap in the face of the Northern Corridor Integration Project countries which has resolved to open their respective skies, something Uganda and Rwanda did and which Kenya is yet to fully implement.
As the saying goes from other areas concerning Kenya, choices have consequences and the Kenyan aviation regulators must now shoulder a fair share of the blame over the games they played which lost the country big time.
Questions are however also asked about the aircraft type Fastjet uses, the Airbus A319 with up to 156 seats in an all economy layout.
Competition on the route to Mombasa, will besides national carrier Kenya Airways be Jambojet apart from a few lesser operators, using a Boeing B737-300, also in an all economy version, while for the lesser density routes to Eldoret and Kisumu Jambojet, a full subsidiary of Kenya Airways, now uses a Bombardier Q400NextGen.
On these routes will the A319 arguably be too large and aviation pundits are speculating now if Fastjet may in fact use smaller aircraft on the Kenyan domestic routes, like either a medium sized turboprop or else a smaller jet.
The emerging application process of Fastjet to attain an AOC will be closely monitored in regard of progress and also in regard of the regulators pulling funny stuff on them.