Water canons and the red carpet awaits Fastjet in Nairobi

When Fastjet’s flight FN 103 lands at 1110 hours local time at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, red carpets will await as will the traditional water cannon shower from the airport’s fire brigade, celebrating the inaugural flight, the first of two on the same day. The aircraft will leave Nairobi at 1140 hours following a fast, thirty minutes’ turnaround, and fly on to Kilimanjaro as FN 271 where it will land at 1240 hours EAT. At 1310 hours, the same aircraft will then commence the return journey from JRO to NBO as FN 272, landing back in Nairobi at 1410 hours on its maiden flight from Kilimanjaro. The daily Nairobi to Dar es Salaam return flight will then leave at 1440 hours as FN 104.

Fastjet management, government officials and senior staff of the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority will be on board both flights into Nairobi to celebrate this milestone for Fastjet.

Airline sources have already confirmed to this correspondent that additional flights connecting Zanzibar and Mombasa, plus a second daily flight between DAR and NBO once loadfactors justify the extra services, are in advanced stages of planning.

Stalled by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority for nearly two years – Fastjet Tanzania had as an airline designated for the route by the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority applied for landing rights in 2014 already – has the LCC at last secured the approvals by the Kenyan regulators.

Meanwhile has Kenya Airways turned up the competitive heat with the launch of a return fare of just US Dollars 266 (terms and conditions apply) highlighting five of the advantages of flying with a full service airline, yet with no mention even of the frequent flyer miles passengers can earn.

‘Some may not see the humour in the wording of the advert but the core of the message is clear, Kenya Airways will be fighting for every single passengers on the route between Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. They drive the point home that for this fare, which includes all taxes of course unlike Fastjet, where taxes and fees must be added to their advertised fare, passengers get a number of extras. Important is the checked baggage of course for which Fastjet charges 30 Dollars per piece unless prebooked and prepaid. Another benefit is the drink and snack service on KQ flights, whereas Fastjet passengers must pay for it. A very big advantage are Kenya Airways’ five daily flights, giving a much wider choice of travelling times. However, Fastjet is targeting a group of travelers, like they did in Tanzania, who traditionally travel by bus. People are quick to learn to book in advance or take advantage of special sales when they get can the lowest fares. This is for point to point traffic only of course especially from Dar es Salaam. I am personally not so sure about Kilimanjaro because the Arusha to Nairobi highway is new and unless delayed at the border also fast. To get to the airport from Arusha is fifty kilometres plus the check in time etc etc so for that route the time gains are maybe little. The big game changer will happen when Fastjet can start domestic flights in Kenya after they got their ASL last year. Competition in Kenya however will be much harder than in Tanzania because they are up against established low cost airlines like Jambojet. Delaying them so much has helped the Kenyan airlines and that was of course precisely what KCAA intended to do. From my side, competition is welcome and will bring fares down. What we now need is for flights within East Africa to be turned into domestic services and internal border controls and customs checks to be lifted. When we get to that point travel should be much easier and numbers should go up’ commented a regular Nairobi based aviation source the day prior to Fastjet launching their flights.

Fastjet as of today will serve six African destinations out of Dar es Salaam, Johannesburg, Lilongwe, Harare, Lusaka, Entebbe and now also Nairobi. The airline also serves Kilimanjaro, Mwanza and Mbeya from their hub in Dar es Salaam, with Zanzibar re-joining the network as of tomorrow, 12th of January.