Economy

Kisumu-Mombasa direct flights bookings surge on lockdown

kisumu air

Kisumu International Airport. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Domestic carriers Thursday reported full bookings on the route, prompting some carriers to increase the number of flights.
  • Railway and road connection between western Kenya and the coastal region remains suspended following a presidential directive last week that placed Nairobi and the counties of Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nakuru under a partial lockdown.
  • The five counties are being treated as one Covid-19 high risk zone, with residents barred from crossing over to other areas.

Demand for direct flights between Mombasa and western Kenya towns of Kisumu and Eldoret peaked ahead of the Easter holiday festivities despite travel restrictions imposed on Nairobi and four neighbouring counties to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Domestic carriers Thursday reported full bookings on the route, prompting some carriers to increase the number of flights.

Railway and road connection between western Kenya and the coastal region remains suspended following a presidential directive last week that placed Nairobi and the counties of Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nakuru under a partial lockdown.

The five counties are being treated as one Covid-19 high risk zone, with residents barred from crossing over to other areas.

Budget carrier Jambojet said its flights between western Kenya and Mombasa were fully booked for Thursday and today (Friday) as passengers rushed to make holiday bookings for various destinations in the coastal strip.

“There has been high demand for flying to the coast from western Kenya with the airline witnessing near full booking from Monday this week,” said the airline.

The carrier said demand for air travel between the two zones has been high since Monday, pushing it to increase the number of flights on the route and with an average cabin factor -- the percentage of passenger seats sold -- of 95 percent.

Initially, the carrier used to operate five flights weekly on the Eldoret-Kisumu-Mombasa route but this has since been upgraded to 11.

Fares have also gone up slightly, with a ticket from western Kenya to Mombasa starting from Sh10,100 from Sh9,100 initially.

Jambojet has also recorded good number of passengers flying out of Mombasa to Eldoret and Kisumu as people who work at the coast travel back home to celebrate the Easter holiday with their families.

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) banned flights in and out of Nairobi in compliance with public health guidelines meant to contain a surge in Covid-19 infections in the country.

However, domestic flights outside the zoned areas will be allowed to operate normally, with Kenyan residents and international tourists permitted to reach their destinations within the stipulated curfew times.

This directive came as a blow to local carriers, the majority of which operate from hubs in Nairobi and hoped that the earlier directive that had been issued by KCAA would help them stay afloat.

Domestic airlines such as Safarilink and AirKenya mostly serve tourist routes such as Masai Mara, Tsavo, Malindi and Diani.

The aviation regulator had last week allowed airlines to fly foreign tourists in and out of Nairobi and the four surrounding counties before making a U-turn.

The KCAA had earlier said the exemption was applicable to all airlines offering holiday travel. But in a quick reversal on Monday evening, the regulator said international tourists would not be given exemption as it had been communicated earlier.

“In compliance with presidential executive…KCAA wishes to clarify that as from 6 p.m. today, all domestic passenger flights in and out of the zoned area of Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nakuru shall cease to operate until further notice,” said KCAA director-general Gilbert Kibe.

The new containment measures in the five counties, including shutdown of bars and churches, have elicited uproar among business groups amid mass job losses.