Economy

Domestic airfares double as Christmas travel demand surges

air

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

Summary

  • Ticket prices from Nairobi to Kisumu have risen to a peak of Sh15, 100 from as low as Sh6, 800 during weekdays and about Sh10, 000 on weekends.
  • Flights to the coastal city of Mombasa from Nairobi are almost fully booked with the cost of remaining seats increasing to Sh17, 000, from an average of Sh7, 200 in November.
  • Airfares to Eldoret from Nairobi have been relatively low as the route is still not as popular as Kisumu and Mombasa.

Domestic airfares have nearly doubled ahead of Christmas on increased demand with some routes recording full bookings in the days to December 25.

Ticket prices from Nairobi to Kisumu have risen to a peak of Sh15, 100 from as low as Sh6, 800 during weekdays and about Sh10, 000 on weekends.

Flights to the coastal city of Mombasa from Nairobi are almost fully booked with the cost of remaining seats increasing to Sh17, 000, from an average of Sh7, 200 in November.

Air ticket prices to Eldoret from Nairobi, which is a cheaper route compared to other destinations, have increased to Sh11, 100 from an average of Sh5, 300 during the low season.

The quoted fares are based on Tuesday’s bookings and are likely to continue rising as the Christmas holiday approaches. The prices on all routes are set to come down on Christmas Day as the number of those seeking to travel reduces significantly.

Safarilink CEO Alex Avedi said airfares are up mainly on increased demand for travel during the festive season.

"Demand for air travel has gone up and this is what is pushing the prices up. We are fully booked in the coastal routes from December 20th all the way to December 25th," Mr Avedi told the Business Daily in an interview yesterday.

The standard gauge railway (SGR) passenger service from Nairobi to Mombasa is nearly fully booked ahead of Christmas in a move set to force holidaymakers to seek expensive alternatives like road and air travel.

The bookings register shows that trains have a few seats remaining in the days leading to December 25, signaling increased travel to Mombasa and offering a boost to hotels.

Lack of space on the SGR service, which charges Sh1,000 for economy class and Sh3,000 on the first-class coaches, looks set to benefit bus owners and airlines as families look to enjoy the holiday in the Coast.

Airfares to Eldoret from Nairobi have 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. Flights to Mombasa have traditionally been higher than Kisumu, but the fares to the two cities from Nairobi now nearly match due to pent-up demand from passengers travelling to Western Kenya.

The carriers’ main challenge has been convincing Kenyans to book early, which is vital to the low-cost pricing model.

The cost of the ticket is also determined by the time of travel with morning and evening flights tending to be expensive compared to afternoon planes.

For instance, passengers taking the morning flight on December 24 via Jambojet will pay between 8,100 and Sh11,100 in the morning while those travelling in the evening will pay 9,100 for a one–way air ticket.

Those flying to Mombasa from December 23 to Christmas day through the same airline will pay a low of Sh15,000 and a high of Sh17,000 depending on the day and time for a one-way ticket.

748 Air Service to Kisumu is fully booked between December 23 and 24 with a few seats available on Christmas Day selling for Sh12, 840 one way. Last month, one could get an offer starting from Sh4,000 on the same route.

Airlines have also increased the number of flights to popular destinations in response to high demand for air travel.

Jambojet, a subsidiary of the national carrier Kenya Airways, added Mombasa flights to 56 times a week, up from 48 starting December 20 to January 9.

The carrier is now flying to Malindi from its hub in Nairobi 22 times a week up from 18 flights currently.

It also flies to Ukunda 20 times a week up from 14 times, signalling high demand for domestic flying.

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