UK budget airline Fastjet has reduced the frequency of its Nairobi-Kilimanjaro flights to two per week down from one every day citing low passenger numbers.
The move reverses an earlier decision by the carrier to suspend flights on the route. The low-cost airline is now operating a Friday and Sunday flight to Kilimanjaro, as low customer numbers on weekdays have rendered a daily schedule commercially unviable.
“Fastjet Tanzania has reduced flight frequency on its route between Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Nairobi in Kenya, effective from February 15,” the carrier said in a statement.
The airline on January 11 launched daily flights from Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) at prices relatively lower than those offered by Kenya Airways and its associate, Precision Air.
Fastjet’s general manager for East Africa Jimmy Kibati last week told the Business Daily that the airline had “suspended” flights to Kilimanjaro beginning February 14.
The carrier’s amended schedule shows flights will depart from Nairobi on Fridays and Sundays at 11:40am and land in Kilimanjaro at 12:40pm while the return flight will take off at 1:10pm and arrive at the JKIA at 2:10pm.
Fastjet, which is listed at the London Stock Exchange, says it will maintain daily flights to Dar es Salaam and, if demand eventually picks up on the Kilimanjaro route, increase it frequencies.
The carrier’s entry into the Tanzanian market raised the stakes for KQ and Precision Air since it offered tickets at prices relatively cheaper than its two competitors.
Fastjet, which last April raised Sh7.5 billion to fund its expansion into the African market, has now handed the two carriers breathing space.
“The lack of competition on many routes maintains prices artificially high, keeping air travel beyond the reach of most,” said Mr Kibati when launching the Tanzania-Kenya route. Fastjet operates a budget model where passengers who make advance bookings pay less. Passengers who want extras like food, baggage and seat choices pay extra, making it cheaper to fly for those seeking minimal additions.
A search of Fastjet flights to Kilimanjaro on February 18 showed that customers pay Sh9,900 while those flying to Dar es Salaam pay Sh13,200.
A one-way flight to Kilimanjaro on the same day aboard KQ is priced at Sh18,140 while one to Dar es Salaam costs Sh22,540, according to the carrier’s online booking portal.
Precision Air, which has been financially shaky, charges customers Sh17,544 for a one-way flight from the JKIA to Kilimanjaro and about Sh27,132 to Dar es Salaam.
Fastjet’s entry on the route precipitated a marketing blitz from both carriers, prompting a warning from the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) over misleading adverts.
The aviation regulator last week warned airlines, including Fastjet and KQ, against publishing adverts that indicate ticket prices which exclude taxes and fees in a bid to attract customers.