Domestic flight fares rose the highest ahead of Christmas compared to international plane charges and local bus rates on increased demand for flying on routes like Kisumu and Mombasa, official data show
The Kenya National Bureau of Statics (KNBS) says domestic air fares rose 18.43 per cent to an average of Sh21,230 in December for return compared to similar month in 2017.
This was higher compared to country bus fares that rose 17.5 per cent to Sh1,245 for 350-kilometre journey, which is the equivalent to moving from Nairobi to Kisumu, in the period under review.
Return international fares rose 8.92 per cent to Sh120, 546 in December while bus fares for shorter route of 250 kilometers increased 7.03 per cent to an average Sh436.
“The demand for air service was high in December 2018 because there were more passengers seeking to travel by air especially during the festive season compared to 2017,“ said Silverstone Air sales manager Patrick Oketch.
Introduction of new carriers like Jambojet (2014), Silverstone and Fly Sax has brought down air fares low enough to attract bus travellers into flying for the first time.
This, backed by the growing appetite for local flights by the middle class, especially on routes like Nairobi and Kisumu, has seen a rise in air travel with the promise of a 50-minute flight on an eight-hour bus ride on a highway beset by tail-backs.
The KNBS data show that domestic passenger travel rose from 2.6 million passengers in 2013 to 4.1 million in 2017, reflecting a growth of 57.6 per cent.
While the KNBS data capture fares throughout December, flight charges rose sharply in the days to Christmas on increased demand.
This saw cost of flights to Kisumu ahead of Christmas overtake that on the Mombasa route for the first time.
Those travelling to Kisumu from Nairobi on Jambojet paid Sh14,500 on December 21, the highest on the weekend to Christmas day.
The highest price on Jambojet to Mombasa from Nairobi over the period was Sh11,500 and fell to a low of Sh4,500 on December 24.
Rival Fly540 flight to Kisumu from Nairobi on December 21 was sold out and the fares on the Mombasa route were Sh11,270.
Passengers travelling to the lake side city, ordinarily would pay Sh4,500 and Sh6,500 for a one-way, signalling a pent up demand.
The carriers’ main challenge has been convincing Kenyans to book early, which is vital for the low-cost model.
Bus fares to Kisumu from Nairobi rose 17.5 per cent, which was a slower pace compared to the cost of diesel that rose 21 per cent in the year to December to Sh111.89 a litre.