- Construction of the depot comes at a time when more budget carriers have increased flights to the lakeside city.
- Just this September, Fly Safarilink announced the introduction of a midday flight to Kisumu.
- The performance of the western route comes at a time when others such as Mombasa and Lamu have taken a beating from Covid-19 economic hardships.
The Kenya Airport Authority (KAA) has invited bidders for the construction and management of a 100, 000-litre fuel depot at the Kisumu International Airport, signalling increased demand in western Kenya.
Construction of the depot comes at a time when more budget carriers have increased flights to the lakeside city.
Just this September, Fly Safarilink announced the introduction of a midday flight to Kisumu, which increased its flights per week to 23.
Similarly, Jambojet, a subsidiary of Kenya Airways, operates 27 flights every week to Kisumu.
Other carriers on the Nairobi-Kisumu route are Kenya Airways, 748 Air Service, Air Renegade, FLY540, and Air Kenya.
The route's growing popularity is also forcing airlines that had stopped flights to reconsider their decisions.
Only three months ago, Air Renegade and 748 Air Service re-entered the Kisumu itinerary, signifying the growing importance of the western route.
“We realised there was a niche with the midday flights. Some passengers would come in the morning, do their business but want to get back to Nairobi by midday,” said Fly Safarilink operations manager Sammy Ogola.
“The midday flight has picked up so fast. But the demand for flights is usually higher on the weekends on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays.”
The performance of the western route comes at a time when others such as Mombasa and Lamu have taken a beating from Covid-19 economic hardships due to low number of tourist arrivals.
In the six months to June this year, international arrivals fell 21.7 percent to 305,635 from 390,335 during a similar period last year, according to the Tourism Research Institute data.
But arrivals recovery could boost air services to the coastal towns such as Malindi and Watamu, forcing operators to increase flights.
A Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) hotel survey showed that accommodation by foreign visitors jumped to 20.5 percent in September from 19.8 percent in July.
The entrance of more players into the Western market, nonetheless, has increased competition with airlines drastically cutting fares to gain an edge over rivals.
For instance, 748 Air Services charges as low as Sh4,000 one-way from Nairobi to Kisumu, making for high-cost savings for its customers compared to what they would have to fork out when flying with its rivals.
Earlier, a return ticket from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi for most carriers cost an average of Sh10,700.
In its 2019/20 report, KAA data showed that domestic air travels increased by 200 percent despite the Covid-19 setback.
For example, the number of arrivals and departures on the Wilson-Kisumu route increased to 245,637 in 2020/21 from 48,078.
“Out of 126 domestic destinations from Wilson Airport, Kisumu registered eight percent of passenger movement,” said KAA managing director Alex Gitari.
And amid the increase in demand, KAA plans to rehabilitate the old airport and passenger terminal at Kisumu International Airport in preparation for 9th Edition of Africities Summit scheduled to take place next year in April.
The funding was obtained from the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure through requisition by the County Government of Kisumu.
It has set aside Sh157 million for rehabilitation of the passenger terminal including fixing floors, walling, ceiling, air conditioning, electrical and other auxiliary works.
According to KAA projects and engineering services General manager, Fred Odawo the rehabilitation work should be ready before April next year.
“In order to be ready for the summit, Kisumu City needs to enhance several infrastructural installations. Part of the projects involves the rehabilitation of the old airport apron,” said Mr Odawo.
He said they will construct a parking space about one thousand square metres from materials milled from the old apron.
The projects will enable the airport to accommodate one million passengers annually from the current 500,000.
“Apart from the expansion of the passenger terminal, we will be working on the pavements, the apron, and the taxiway, where the old airport used to be,” he said.