Jambojet flying with half of seats empty


Passengers disembark from Jambojet at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Jambojet is flying with half seats empty since the resumption of flights on July 15, keeping the prices of air tickets low in what could delay the recovery of the airline.

The airline’s acting managing director Karanja Ndegwa says the budget carriers is operating at 50 percent of its capacity since it resumed operations in mid-July.

The airline, which is fully owned by Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ, does not expect the numbers to improve in the year, a forecast that could delay its turnaround.

Jambojet says it has lost Sh1.2 billion since April 6 when Kenya suspended domestic flights as a measure to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“At the domestic level, passenger numbers currently stand at 50 percent and we do not see much improvements until December,” said Mr Ndegwa in an interview yesterday.

“The uptake of air ticket is very low because of the hard economic situation due Covid-19 in the country. Ticket prices that were released when we resumed operations in the domestic routes have not increased or reduced.”

Passengers are currently paying Sh4,800 on a one-way ticket to Kisumu, Mombasa, Eldoret and Malindi from Nairobi following the lifting of restrictions on movement in and out of the capital and resumption of air travel.

Jambojet is also charging Sh6,800 for one-way ticket from Nairobi to the tourist hotspot Diani since July 15.

The numbers sometimes climb to 53 percent or thereabout and this makes it very hard for us to plan,” said Mr Ndegwa.

The airline, he said, has ruled out the possibility of resuming Entebbe and Kigali flights until 2021, citing strict Covid-19 requirements in these countries.

Rwanda’s Ministry of Infrastructure announced that passengers entering Rwanda will be required to take a second test upon arrival with the results expected within 24 hours.

This will be in addition to the test that they would have taken in their home countries in the last 72 hours.

Kigali will require also international passengers arriving in Rwanda to quarantine in selected hotel rooms that cost between $40 and $200 a day, implying that travellers will have to incur double cost to enter the country.

“The travel restrictions are more — for example, Covid requirements, quarantine requirements and travel advisories being issued by a number of countries. This makes international travel difficult,” said Mr Ndegwa.

The low passenger numbers is likely to dent the carrier’s fortune at a time it has received approval to fly between cities in Kenya without stopping at its hub in Nairobi and expand into cargo business.

The carrier is also seeking permission to expand its existing international destinations from where they fly at the moment and they have got approval from the regulator to fly directly from Mombasa-Kigali-Mombasa, Mombasa-Entebbe-Mombasa and Mombasa- Dar es Salaam-Mombasa.