Kenyans getting overcharged for air travel, says report

Tourists disembark from a plane. A new report says local routes affected by high fares include Malindi, Lamu and Kisumu.
NAIROBI: Kenyans pay more than double the true cost of air travel within and outside the country says a new report by Travelstart, one of Africa’s largest online travel agency.

Titled, “The Great Rip-off,” the report also indicated that most of the expensive routes in the country are preferred holiday destinations and include Malindi, Lamu and Kisumu.

Travelstart Country Manager Bryan Kariuki said that affordable air travel can unlock the stagnating domestic tourism figures.

“Making travel affordable is the key component of any tourism recovery strategy,”he said while announcing the report’s findings.

“The local tourism sector has suffered greatly this year from the effects of terrorism and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.”

Several African nations have restricted or banned air travel from Ebola-stricken countries. Airlines like Kenya Airways and British Airways have suspended such flights.

Statistics from the Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) for the first half of the year indicate that international tourist arrivals to Kenya fell by 13.6 per cent, compared to a similar period last year, but the numbers have been falling since 2012. A comparison to the corresponding period this year indicated a 24 per cent drop.

Domestic tourism’s contribution to the sector has almost stagnated at 40 per cent. The Kenya Economic Survey 2014 shows that Kenyans occupied 2,699 bed-nights last year, a drop from 2,787 in 2012.

Travelstart’s report states that more Kenyans will be encouraged to fly once average prices become affordable.


From the report, a return ticket to Malindi averaged Sh14,725 at some agents during the time of the survey. Some travelers to Kisumu were charged Sh13,230 by their agent, whereas indications are they would have paid Sh5,715 for the same ticket.

But Kariuki admitted that the survey was done before the introduction of Jambojet by Kenya Airways, which happened in the last week of October. He said the KQ’s low-cost subsidiary might lower the prices available with some agents for local flights.

Jambojet launched its first flight on April 1, after nearly three years on the drawing board. The inaugural Boeing 737 flight took off from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi for Moi International Airport in Mombasa with 120 passengers on board.

It planned to initially add domestic flights from Nairobi to Kisumu and Eldoret, before later branching out to regional destinations including Arusha, Tanzania.

The price differentials also exist for international destinations. One agent was charging Sh90,000 for a return ticket to Dubai while at Travelstart, Kariuki says, the same ticket was going for Sh33,091.

Travelstart Founder and Global CEO Stephan Ekbergh said that the company set-out to make airl travel affordable locally and has achieve its goal. “We believe that African economies will only grow if we partake of what we are selling to the global market. Domestic tourism is the way to go,” he added.

The survey sampled 12 routes, all from Nairobi; three local, five regional and four international. Three types of dates, immediate, short-term and long-term, were checked in the second week of October 2014.

Immediate dates covered departure from the last week of October and return from the second week of November; short-term captured departure from late February 2015 and return from mid-March 2015 while long-term captured departure from early May 2015 and return from late May 2015.

Travelstart air fare