Demand for air travel on the Western region has seen aviation firms increase their flights from Nairobi to Kisumu in a move set to heighten competition for air ticket on the route.
In a span of less than two months, a number of airlines have increased flight frequencies or launched operations to Kisumu International Airport, raising competition for air ticket with carriers such as Kenya Airways, Fly540 and Safarilink.
Aviation firm 748 Air Services last month started direct passenger flights to Kisumu from Nairobi stepping up competition for passengers on the route.
The company, that is currently on an aggressive expansion plan, says the new flight will be originating from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi two times per day.
Passenger on the route pays an average fare of Sh10,700 on a return air ticket – which is relatively lower compared to its competitors on the route.
In March, budget carrier Jambojet increased flights in nearly all its routes including Kisumu following high demand for passengers seeking air travel ahead of Easter holiday in April.
The airline increased frequencies on specific days from March 8 but kept the airfare unchanged.
The airline flies from Eldoret to Kisumu before proceeding to Mombasa.
“Say yes to unforgettable Easter this year. We have increased frequencies during the Easter season visit into your schedule,” said the airline in notice then.
Safarilink, that introduced an additional mid-morning flight to cash in on increased demand during the Madaraka Day fete is also set to increase frequency on its Nairobi-Kisumu route in the next two weeks.
The local airline will now fly three times per day from Nairobi to Kisumu, an increase from two due to increased demand from travellers.
“We have experienced immense growth along the Kisumu-Nairobi route due to our very affordable fares. We now have plans for an additional mid-morning flight on the route starting mid -June,” said the airline in an interview with Shipping and Logistics yesterday.
According to the Kenya Airports Authority reports, Kisumu International Airport handles about 500,000 passengers per year.
The airport is, however, undergoing an upgrade at Sh1.2 billion to improve customer experience and reposition it as a regional aviation hub.
The move will see the airport double the number of passengers it can handle to 1 million per year.
Most passengers using the Nairobi-Kisumu route are either on business trip, for conference, tourism or on visit to their rural homes.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority director-general Gilbert Kibe says the increase in passenger operations on Kisumu route is mainly pegged on rapid expansion of the lake town city.
"The middle class is growing, the county strategy is working, business and trade requires movement both ways. Kisumu is developing rapidly," says Mr Kibe.
"Air transport is the single largest enabler of economic development in Kenya and globally. More counties will begin air transport."
Kenya Airport Authority Wilson Airport and Northern region Airports manager Joseph Okumu said demand for air travel on the Kisumu route is set to fall as more players jostle for a slice on the route.
The route he says is also lucrative as it connects passengers working in the city but would want to retreat to the villages over the weekend.
"We expect to see more airlines launching operations on Kisumu route. This is good news as more passenger travels will open up the city and Western region," said Mr Okumu.