Jambojet leases another plane amid row with pilots

Jambojet chief executive Willem Hondius. PHOTO | GEORGE KIKAMI
Jambojet chief executive Willem Hondius. PHOTO | GEORGE KIKAMI 

Kenya Airways’ budget carrier Jambojet has leased a second plane to serve the Eldoret and Kisumu routes amid a row with its pilots who are afraid of losing their jobs.

The low-cost carrier said on Thursday it had leased a second plane and flight crew from DAC Aviation following a decision to increase its weekly flights to Kisumu by three to 16 beginning Thursday.

Pilots working for Kenya Airways are in court seeking to stop the budget airline from leasing flight crews to operate their Malindi, Lamu and Ukunda flights, arguing that the move could open the door to their sacking.

The matter is currently before the court, but Jambojet was granted orders allowing it to operate the leased planes pending determination of the case.

Jambojet said it would from Sunday increase its weekly flights to Ukunda from the current nine per week to 14.

The move to lease the new plane shows that the national carrier is not letting the ongoing court case stall its expansion plans.

“All flights on the Kisumu and Eldoret routes will be serviced by the (additional) Bombardier Q400 aircraft which we have chartered from DAC Aviation,” said Jambojet CEO Willem Hondius.

The Kenya Airlines Pilots Association (Kalpa) has filed a suit on behalf of Jambojet pilots claiming the airline illegally signed a deal with DAC Aviation to lease the first plane and flight crew to operate their Malindi, Lamu and Ukunda flights.

Kalpa argues the arrangement renders Jambojet pilots redundant, adding that the airline did not have the authority to enter into such an agreement because it lacks an Air Operator Certificate.

The pilots lobby group also claims that Jambojet, a subsidiary of Kenya Airways, did not consult it before entering into the wet lease agreement with DAC Aviation, contrary to normal procedure.

Kalpa wants Kenya Airways to extend an agreement for pilots’ working conditions to Jambojet personnel, while the national carrier insists that the lobby should initiate separate talks with the budget airline.

“Jambojet pilots are in imminent risk of being rendered redundant by reasons of a wet lease agreement between Jambojet and DAC Aviation,” Kalpa said in its suit papers.

Lady Justice Helen Wasilwa on April 13 stopped Jambojet from using the disputed aircraft on the three Coast routes, but lifted the order two days later after the budget airline appeared in court to argue its defence.

An inter parties hearing is scheduled for Monday.

But even as the court case continues, Jambojet is keen on continuing with its plans which include future expansion to Juba, Entebbe, Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Bujumbura, Kigali, Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro and Addis Ababa.

The airline, which launched its services in last April, has flown half a million passengers to date, 100,000 shy of the target it had set for its first year in operation.

Jambojet has been operating a fleet of three Boeing 737-300 aircraft before leasing the two Bombardier Q400 planes.