The prices of tickets on Kenya’s first budget airline Jambojet have increased significantly ahead of the festive season as bookings rise.
Those booking late are paying dearly, with passengers travelling to coastal towns having to part with huge amounts to get a seat.
Ticket prices booked from December 22 to 24 have doubled on some routes compared to reservations made a month ago, while some flights are fully booked for the Christmas period.
Jambojet chief executive Willem Hondius said the airline has registered an increase in bookings this year.
“If you compare the number of bookings for this December versus last year we are 17 per cent ahead, with the highest growth on Malindi route (60 per cent) and Ukunda (40 per cent),” said Mr Hondius.
Jambojet, a low-cost carrier launched in April 2014 and owned by Kenya Airways, offers rock bottom prices for those booking early.
Booking a seat last Friday to travel to Eldoret from Nairobi between December 1 and 22 cost Sh5,200 one way, but booking from 23rd will cost between Sh6,200 and Sh8,200.
Fares across all routes have risen this festive season compared with the same period last year. Last year passengers to Eldoret who booked flights in October enjoyed the lowest fare of Sh2,950 one way, but those who booked in October this year paid between Sh4,200 and Sh5,200.
Those making reservations through sales executives pay an extra Sh600. Those who intend to travel to Kisumu will pay Sh8,200 on December 22 with the fare rising to Sh11,200 for those who will book to travel on 24th.
One way ticket flights to Malindi booked on December 22 and 24 will cost Sh11,200 compared with booking early this month where travellers paid between Sh7,200 and Sh8,200.
Those flying to Mombasa, another coastal town favoured by holidaymakers, between December 22 and 24 will have to pay Sh14,200.
Jambojet’s main challenge has been convincing Kenyans to book early, which is vital to the low-cost model.
The airline said Kenyans have the habit of “buy today to travel tomorrow,” which sees them pay more as opposed to buying tickets in advance.
High demand for air travel has seen a number of airlines expand their routes to western Kenya with Safarilink being the latest entrant with a new flight to Kitale.
The airline, which predominantly plies tourist destination routes, said the new flights will originate from Wilson Airport on a Beech1900 aircraft, which carries a maximum of 19 passengers.
Carriers such as Jambojet, Fly540, Fly-SAX and Skyward Express have in recent years boosted their operations in the North Rift and Safarilink’s entry is set to increase competition for passengers.
Safarilink also provides charter flight services across the East African region. Fly540 and Fly-SAX fly directly to Kitale from Wilson Airport and Safarilink’s entry is set to offer competition for customers.
Fly540 also serves Eldoret, which is about 70 kilometres from Kitale. The airline increased flights to the town early last year.