Corporate

Jambojet plotting a growth on new routes

ndegwa

Jambojet managing director Karanja Ndegwa. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • The carrier booked a Sh1.2 billion loss in the three months and a half in 2020 when its flights were grounded due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
  • In as much as the carrier resumed operations last July, followed by regional routes a month later, as states continued to relax travel restrictions, demand for air travel has stayed below pre-pandemic levels.

The last two years have been tough for Jambojet just like any other airline across the globe. The carrier booked a Sh1.2 billion loss in the three months and a half in 2020 when its flights were grounded due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

In as much as the carrier resumed operations last July, followed by regional routes a month later, as states continued to relax travel restrictions, demand for air travel has stayed below pre-pandemic levels.

The Business Daily caught up with Jambojet managing director Karanja Ndegwa to get an overview of the business and what the company is doing to stay ahead of the game in 2022.

WHAT IS THE OUTLOOK FOR AIRFARE ON DOMESTIC ROUTES IN A MARKET THAT HAS SEEN NEW ENTRANTS AND RISE IN FREQUENCIES?

The ideal scenario is that every single flight is able to meet its own cost, and even generate profit. For us, three major things come into consideration when setting the airfare. With profitability at the back of our mind, we must have the ideal number of passengers, and an ideal yield to meet this cost, and still make it affordable to our customers.

Competition brings another dimension to this ecosystem. Of course, competition is always welcome. In essence, it is beneficial to the customer, and with this, we have to prove our value proposition to them.

JAMBOJET BUSINESS MODEL WAS BASED ON ATTRACT BUS TRAVELLERS AND CHARGING FARES OF LOWS OF SH2,850. WHAT CHANGED?

That was a launch promo fare. We came in to revolutionise the way people fly by making it accessible and affordable. As a result of this 30 percent of our customers are first-time flyers, and we hope to continue reaching more and more of them.

While it might not be possible to keep the fares at Sh2, 850 due to escalating operating costs, we occasionally offer promos and deals to stimulate the market, especially during the low seasons.

Moreover, we have products such as Jaza Pole Pole, which allows our customers to pay for their trips in instalments from Sh2, 670. With this, they can secure their flight booking and plan their trips in advance without any hustle and stress.

WHAT IS JAMBOJET’S TAKE ON FLYING TO SMALLER AIRSTRIPS LIKE NYERI, HOMABAY, SIAYA AND KAKAMEGA?

We operate an autonomous fleet of Dash 8-400, which requires a runway length of at least 1.4KM to operate on full payload. At the moment we are working closely with the Ministry of Transport and county governments on the development of infrastructure around the major aerodromes.

The other aspect is market and demand analysis. We only fly to destinations that make business sense in terms of current demand and/or prospects for growth and development.

HAS LOCAL TRAVEL GOTTEN BACK TO PRE COVID LEVELS? WHAT LEVELS ARE WE DOING COMPARED TO THE PERIOD AHEAD OF MARCH 2020?

We flew over 730 thousand passengers in 2021, which is slightly more than what we carried in 2019. This is with the additional routes we started in September 2021.

This number is impressive because it is largely driven by domestic travelers. It is also rewarding because after the lockdown was lifted in 2020, we started running the campaign #NowTravelReady, which aimed at encouraging domestic travel.

We partnered with hotels, tour operators, County Governments, and Government institutions to showcase the new normal of travel just to stimulate the market.

JAMBOJET IN 2019 SECURED AN AIR SERVICE LICENSE FROM THE AVIATION REGULATOR TO START FLYING SEVERAL ROUTES IN AFRICA SUCH AS ADDIS ABABA, DAR ES SALAAM, ZANZIBAR, KILIMANJARO, MWANZA AND JUBA AMONG OTHERS. WHEN SHOULD WE EXPECT TO SEE YOU MAKE A DEBUT IN THESE ROUTES?

Airlines make applications to the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority on routes they are interested in venturing into. This is the first stage. Aside from the application to the authorities and governments, we still have to ensure the routes are viable, and also figure out when is the right time to start these routes. We are currently in the final stages of getting the approval on two routes for quarter 3 of 2022.

WHY IS JAMBOJET VENTURING INTO CARGO OPERATIONS TARGETING REGIONAL MARKETS SUCH AS GOMA? HOW MANY TONNES DO YOU INTEND TO TRANSPORT PER WEEK?

We have the capacity for 1.2 tonnes per aircraft, one way. We fly 141 frequencies weekly, which means we have on average 169 tonnes each week across our network. The destinations we fly to include Mombasa, Nairobi, Goma, Diani, Kisumu, Lamu, Eldoret and Malindi.

Most of the inquiries we have received, and the shipments we have uplifted are headed for Goma, and they range from fresh produce and flowers, general cargo and pharmaceuticals.

WHEN IS JAMBOJET PLANNING TO RESUME DIRECT FLIGHTS TO RWANDA AND ENTEBBE THAT WERE HALTED LAST YEAR DUE TO STRICT COVID-19 CONTAINMENT MEASURES?

We don’t have an indication yet. As you know, there has been a lot of restrictions in travel, thereby reducing the number of passengers in the routes. There are other airlines serving the market, but there are not enough passengers to justify our return at this particular moment.

We keep reviewing the passenger traffic data from time to time, and we will make the decision to return scheduled frequencies to the route once the numbers look promising.

WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT TO SEE FROM JAMBOJET IN 2022 GOING FORWARD?

With the expansion in routes, comes an expansion in the fleet. We look forward to adding two routes to our network, and possibly one or two new aircraft. We also look forward to setting up our secondary hub in Mombasa and growing the routes we are currently flying to with additional frequencies.

We will mark our 8th year of operations this April. We will continue focusing on the customer, and are developing a couple of products which we believe will add value to them.