Aviation news: First casualty in airfare wars in Kenya


(eTN) – East African Safari Air Express, airline coding B5, has halted all flights in the face of ever stiffer competition in particular on their route to Juba, Southern Sudan, and shrinking traffic to what used to be their plum destination of Lokichoggio, Northern Kenya.

The airline, which was operating aged equipment of the early generation DC9s never managed to achieve what, for instance, their erstwhile partner and latter day rival Jetlink managed, which is to convert their fleet to modern-day jets with superior operating costs, in particular as far as fuel burn was concerned, leave alone firming up market perception about being on the move and not standing still.

Some weeks ago the DC9 fleet was effectively grounded in a last ditch effort to cause a financial turnabout, and substituted for two South African registered BAE 146. That too, however, did not stop the bleed apparently and ever more dismal loadfactors seem to have scared off the joint venture partners from South Africa. It is understood that when they withdrew their planes, the end game approached rapidly for EASA and the halt of operations finally confirmed this.

In particular, the route to Juba has in recent weeks become substantially more competitive, after Kenya Airways finally entered the frame and commenced daily flights between Nairobi and the Southern Sudanese capital, and together with Jetlink – they are operating twice a day, in fact, on their modern CRJ200 jets – will try to see off other competition to this highly-profitable destination. The use of their outdated, worn, and far from state-of-the-art aircraft was undoubtedly one of the many reasons why B5 in the end operated with what some say barely 30 percent load factor, while those using newer jets operate well near with full house on every departure.

In a twist of sorts, a senior Kenya Airways manager – now taken to court by Jetlink together with KQ itself – made comments last week about B5 not going to operate, but in a mistaken belief seems to have packaged EASA with Jetlink, which in fact not only operates but has just added new routes and now faces a court case over libel. While we await the outcome of this case – some sources have indicated that KQ may wish to settle this out of court in view of the blunder by their employee – the aviation industry in Kenya is undoubtedly now facing a period of survival for the financially fittest, as Kenya Airways slugs it out on the main routes between Nairobi and Mombasa, but of late also Nairobi to Kisumu, with Jetlink and Fly 540.