Richard Lough Nairobi

Kenya’s first budget airline aimed to carry 600 000 passengers in its first year and to triple that within four years, its chief executive, Willem Hondius, said this week.

The no-frills airline is wholly owned by Kenya Airways, one of Africa’s largest.

Hondius said on Tuesday that Jambojet faced red tape, poor infrastructure and protectionist policies, but still promised fares low enough to attract bus travellers into the air for the first time.

It would begin by using three Boeing 737s and was scheduled to start flights on April 1, he said, declining to comment on how many tickets had been sold since becoming available late in February.

His aim was to win a portion of the estimated 26 million to 35 million overland journeys made each year between Nairobi and Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret, which would be Jambojet’s first three domestic destinations.

“If I only get a little piece of that then I am in business,” Hondius said at his sparsely furnished headquarters on the edge of Nairobi international airport.

The airline would start on domestic routes only but could, after a year, fly regionally on routes where Kenya Airways has a solid presence.

Jambojet’s lowest single fare to the Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa will start at 2 850 shillings (about R350), including taxes – only 800 shillings more than a luxury bus ride and half the quoted Kenya Airways fare when booked two months in advance.

The 50-minute flight would beat an eight-hour white-knuckle ride by bus on a highway beset by fatal accidents and long delays.

Hondius expected that two-fifths of the 600 000 passengers forecast to fly with Jambojet in the first year would not have boarded a plane before, indicating growth potential.

Hondius said a 70 percent load factor – the share of seats filled – would be “a good result for the first year”. By 2018, Jambojet anticipates connecting up to 2 million passengers a year to regional capitals, using 10 jets. – Reuters