Local airlines add flights to western on demand surge

kisumu air

Kisumu International Airport. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Air travel demand in the western region route has made local airlines increase daily flights at Kisumu International Airport.

Last Friday, Fly Safarilink announced the introduction of a midday flight to Kisumu, making a total of 23 flights a week.

Budget carrier Jambojet has more flights to Kisumu than other destinations.

Jambojet does 27 flights weekly on the Nairobi-Kisumu route, Eldoret 22, Malindi 18, Diani 14 and Lamu four.

“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.”

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic crippling the aviation industry for the better part of 2020, the airlines have since resumed flights, which are slowly picking up.

Kenya Airways, Fly Safarilink, Jambojet, 748 Air Service, Air Renegade, FLY540 and Air Kenya ply the Nairobi-Kisumu route.

Air Renegade and 748 Air Service and Air Renegade joined the Kisumu route two months ago.

“Business is good. On the weekends, we are at 98 percent passenger capacity. Weekdays the carrying capacity is at 60 percent,” said Mr Ogola.

Air Renegade sales and marketing manager Patrick Oketch said Kisumu is the gateway to the 13 counties in the Lake Region Economic Bloc.

The lake port city is one of Kenya’s key trade links with Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Many people prefer to use the flight to attend to their business and return on the same day. Some prefer to fly then use the road or taxi to other towns within the Lake Region,” said Mr Oketch.

“We recently launched the Kisumu route to offer residents the opportunity to enjoy flying at affordable rates. We are doing 14 flights a week, but we will soon add midday flights.”

However, due to stiff competition, most airlines have reduced their fares.

For instance, 748 Air Services charges as low as Sh4,000 one-way from Nairobi to Kisumu compared to its rivals.

Earlier, a return ticket from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi cost an average of Sh10,700.

Air Renegade also reduced its fare from Sh5,000 to Sh4,600.

The Kenya Airports Authority reports show domestic air travellers increased by 200 percent despite the Covid-19 setback.

In the 2019/20 financial year, the arrivals and departure on the Wilson-Kisumu route were at 48,078. In 2020/21, the number of passengers increased to 245,637. “Out of 126 domestic destinations from Wilson Airport, Kisumu registered 8 per cent of passenger movement,” said KAA managing director Alex Gitari.