Domestic airfares surge on elections-fuelled demand


Passengers alight from Jumbojet aircraft at Kisumu International airport on October 9, 2020. PHOTO | TONY OMONDI | NMG

Domestic airfares have more than doubled on increased demand with some routes recording full bookings as Kenyans retreat to their rural homes to cast their votes in Tuesday’s election.

Ticket prices from Nairobi to Kisumu have risen to a peak of Sh14,000 from a low of Sh6,420 when demand for air travel is low — representing a 118 percent increase.

Flights to the coastal town of Mombasa from Nairobi are fully booked with the cost of remaining seats increasing by 66 percent to Sh12,100 from an average of Sh7,200 last month. Air ticket prices to Eldoret from Nairobi, which is always a cheaper route compared to other destinations have been sold out ahead of the election.

Kenya Airways charged Sh12,860 from Nairobi to Kisumu yesterday in the morning. The airline charges about Sh7,335 when demand is low.

The fares are based on Monday’s bookings. The prices on all routes are set to drop slightly after election day.

Safarilink CEO Alex Avedi said airfares are up mainly on high demand for travel ahead of the polls.

“Most people are leaving the city to go vote upcountry and that’s why our flights are full. Most of our routes such as Kisumu and the coastal destinations are fully booked,” Mr Avedi told the Business Daily in an interview.

Bus firms heading to western Kenya such as Nyaugenya Express have also increased their fares from Sh1,200 to Sh2,000 representing a 67 percent increase.

Those heading to Mombasa from Nairobi on Dreamline Express are now paying Sh2,300 up from Sh1,600 representing a 44 percent increase.

The standard gauge railway (SGR) passenger service from Nairobi to Mombasa is also fully booked ahead of the election forcing voters to seek expensive alternatives like road and air travel.

The booking register shows that the train has no vacant seats left in the days leading to August 8, signalling increased travel to Mombasa.

The unavailability of space on the SGR service, which charges Sh1,000 for economy class and Sh3,000 for the first class coaches looks set to come as a major boost to bus owners and airlines who also serve the same route.

Flights to Mombasa have traditionally been higher than routes such as Kisumu while airfare to Eldoret from Nairobi has been relatively low as the route is still not as popular as Kisumu and Mombasa.

The route remains the cheapest among the major domestic flight routes due to low demand. Airline’s main challenge has been convincing Kenyans to book early, which is vital to the low-cost model.

Airlines price their tickets based on factors such as time of travel, with morning and evening flights tending to be expensive as opposed to afternoon planes.

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