Cost of hiring choppers up on higher fuel prices

Helicopters belonging to politicians attending the June 1 Madaraka Day celebrations in Nyeri in 2017. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Firms leasing out private jets in Kenya have increased their prices in the last three months on the back of the high cost of jet fuel and the introduction of 14 percent in value-added tax (VAT) for hiring choppers by the National Treasury.

The cost of jet fuel has hit a high of Sh136 a litre at the moment from Sh100 in January, forcing private firms hiring out choppers to increase their leasing costs even as demand for air travel starts picking up in Kenya after a sluggish start in January.

“Private aviation firms are adjusting the cost at which we are leasing out helicopters simply because jet fuel prices have gone up. There is also the introduction of taxes that were previously waived or exempted for the aviation sector,” Kenya Association of Air Operators (KAAO) executive secretary Eutychus Waithaka told the Business Daily on Tuesday.

Tropic Air now charges $2,800 (Sh332,248) per hour to lease a five-seater chopper, up from $2,500 (Sh296,650) it was charging three months ago-representing a 12 percent increase.

The private charter firm based in Nanyuki also charges $6,000 (709,800) per hour for a six-seater chopper up from $2,600 (Sh307,658) it was charging in April, representing a 130 percent increase.

Bella Aviation, a private aviation firm specialising in leasing out private aircraft on the other hand charges $2,100 (Sh248,745) per hour for a five-seater chopper up from $1,800 (Sh213,210) it was charging three months ago, representing a 17 percent increase.

The firm, based at Wilson Airport and serves markets such as Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania says the increase in price which is exclusive of VAT is due to the heightened movement of politicians across the country ahead of August 9 General Election.

Aerosim Private Air, a charter agent firm based in Nairobi said they are currently hiring five-seater choppers mainly to politicians at $1,900 (Sh225,454) per hour up from $1,600 (Sh189,856) in April- representing 19 percent increase.

The $,1,900 (Sh225,456) the firm is charging at the moment is exclusive of the 14 percent VAT which means that the price can go high up to $2,204 (Sh261,528) per hour.

Official data show the number of registered planes increased by 47, excluding those owned by the National Police Service and the Kenya Defence Forces, to 782 last year.

But 41 of the 47 were choppers, reflecting the increased demand from politicians who prefer helicopters during campaigns because of landing ease.

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