I believe the solution to inspire more Kenyans to travel is pure and simple competition by service providers, be it airlines, hotels or even tour operators. Competition yields great pricing options and best possible outcomes for the consumer in terms of cost. So, was I glad that Fastjet got their license to operate in Kenya? Yes! I was ecstatic about it. I will delve into why competition is great and weigh in some of my opinions on air travel in Africa and particularly East Africa. I would suggest a cup of coffee or tea because I have a mouth full to say.
For a long time flights to Dar es Salaam were super expensive and the only option one had was either to cough up kshs 40,000 ($400) that Kenya Airways was demanding for a return ticket, catch a 15 hour bus ride in this case Dar Express to Dar es Salaam for kshs 3500 ($35) or even yet, my favourite option was to take a shuttle from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro International Airport (Arusha-Moshi) for kshs 1500 ($15) and then catch a Fastjet flight to Dar es Salaam for as low as kshs 4000 ($40). I personally preferred the last option because it was a less tiresome and much cheaper than flying directly from Nairobi.
Not until recently, Kenya Airways (the struggling airline) was sadly charging a pricey amount for a 1 hour trip. I, for one had debates with family and friends around why a plane ticket to Dar es Salaam was equivalent to the cost of a plane ticket to Dubai which is 5 hours away. I am no expert on airline pricing, regional and Africa taxes associated with airfare and I am aware there has been numerous discussions within the East Africa aviation industry on the high cost of taxes; as seen here: High taxes to blame for low flying levels in East Africa, say airlines and here: African Air Travel: Why Are Airlines In Africa So Expensive, Unsafe And Impossible To Navigate. But it was miraculous just how fast Kenya Airways adjusted its fares soon after Fastjet’s launch. They even put up great ads on the dailies that just made me giggle, boosting of their impeccable inflight service and entertainment throwing a direct hint and a possible mockery of the lack of these on Fastjet flights. This begs me to ask whether KQ was ripping Kenyan’s off for such a long time due to lack of an alternative. Another question that has been eminent in my mind for many years is the viability of the concept of economies of scale in the airline industry. Why fly to a given destination with just half the plane full as opposed to three quarters full? or doesn’t this concept apply to airlines?
I do agree that Kenya Airways is a great airline, in fact the Kenyan that I am can say it is the best airline in Africa and could easily compete with some of the greats internationally. My love for KQ was so evident that at one point in my life my ringtone was the KQ Jingle , great musical prowess by Brian Mutuma. This jingle just makes you want to explore the world with Kenya Airways. Also, don’t you just love their slogan “The pride of Africa” and doesn’t the Kenyan in you just want to book tickets on KQ and promote a Kenyan brand? I also remember at one point in time I was in Amsterdam and I saw a KQ plane on one of the gates the Schipol amongst a fleet of KLM planes and I was super ecstatic to see the beautiful Kenyan colours and for a few seconds it just brought warmth into my heart and nostalgia. Being the feminist that I am, Kenya Airways also has the first female African dreamliner Captain among the airlines achievements. Talk about some greats facts to love this airline.
My heart is always in the right place (as is the hearts of many Kenyans) “Najivumia kuwa Mkenya” (I take pride in being Kenyan) and our desire is to support the local brand but my wallet and bank account are not as patriotic as my heart!!! I shall go a mile further and say that the last time I flew KQ was in 2012, because of obvious reason, I do prefer saving an extra coin. The last time I flew Fastjet was in 2014 on a flight from Dar es Salaam to Kilimanjaro International Airport. With this being said, I would love to implore KQ to revise its strategies.
Here’s my appeal to Kenya Airways, how about you lower your prices for most of your destinations and have offers and sales more frequently. I should think that one of your objectives, if not your key objective, is to have many Kenyans fly with you. Why fly Ethiopian, Etihad, Emirates or fast jet while you can fly KQ. We know for a fact that one of the reasons the airline is facing turbulent times is because your ticket pricing (KQ turbulent times) is non competitive and does not reflect the market rates. We all want the airline to succeed, but you need to help us help you and in the final analysis it will be a win-win situation for both parties; the airline and the travellers.
So, here’s a few reasons I am likely to fly KQ thanks to Fastjet. Fastjet’s entry into Kenyan market has breathed fresh air and return tickets to Dar es Salaam are now about kshs 28000 ($280) return while for Fastjet the cost is about kshs 26000 ($260) I can easily forgo the small difference of roughly kshs 2000 ($20) just so as to promote a Kenyan brand. Another reason is that KQ is currently faced with turbulent times and it would be pleasant to support our national carrier. I will likely fly KQ because now my patriotic nature is in line with my bank account and for this I thank Fastjet. Competition is a great thing and we should all embrace it.
As I conclude, KQ you should think of having me as your brand ambassador hehehehehe!!
Thanks for stopping by. As always may adventure be with you!