Fastjet begins international flights to Kenya, awaits approval for domestic operations

It’s been a long wait for Fastjet, but today the low cost carrier celebrated the launch of flights between its Dar es Salaam hub and the city of Nairobi. The airline however needs further regulatory approval to operate domestic flights between Kenyan cities.

Flight FN103 arrived in Nairobi today at about 11:20am, slightly later than scheduled.

Today also marks Fastjet’s launch of flights between Nairobi and the Tanzanian city of Kilimanjaro. The flights will be operated by the same aircraft arriving in Nairobi from Dar es Salaam after a tight, 30 minute stopover at JKIA.

Back in 2012, Fastjet wanted to begin its pan African operations in Kenya but shifted to Dar es Salaam following delays in getting the necessary approvals and setbacks with potential partners. Since then, the low cost carrier has run a domestic network within Tanzania while connecting Dar es Salaam to cities in neighbouring countries.

In December, Fastjet Tanzania was given clearance by the Kenya government to operate flights between Kenya and Tanzania under the Bilateral Air Services Agreement between the two countries as previously approved by the Tanzanian Government.

“Nairobi and Dar es Salaam are not only key travel destinations, and two of the busiest airports in the region, but also hubs with extensive regional and international networks,” Fastjet CEO Ed Winter said at the time.

Fastjet remains keen on operating between Kenya’s cities, but the business environment changed drastically in April 2014 with the entry of Jambojet. Observers now say that Kenya’s domestic air travel market has become very competitive especially during off-peak periods when demand is reduced.

Prospects for domestic air travel in Kenya are mixed. On one hand, the increasing unreliability of road transport, traffic congestion and chaotic passenger services could motivate more people to fly. On the other hand, completion of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) sometime in 2017 could attract passengers if fares are lower than those charged by airlines. However, if the price of train and air tickets is almost the same, then air travel would have the advantage of shorter journey time. Its a 45 minute flight between Nairobi and Mombasa compared to an expected four hours by SGR trains.

Meanwhile, Kenya Airways has begun a renewed marketing campaign for the Nairobi – Dar es Salaam route to counter the entry of Fastjet.

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