Transport Ministry mulls fund to expand, spruce up airstrips

When expansion works were conducted on Suneka Airstrip in Kisii County. [Eric Abuga, Standard]

The government plans to start sprucing up airstrips across the country, many of them dilapidated after years of neglect, in what it said would help grow local air travel.

The Transport ministry yesterday said it is in the process of setting up a kitty that will be used in the development and maintenance of airstrips. 

“To expand air travel and make it more accessible, the government is working on an Airstrips Fund for developing and maintaining aerodromes across the country,” said Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen at a ceremony to celebrate the tenth anniversary of low-cost carrier Jambojet. 

He said air travel is not and need not be a luxury. 

“Flights facilitate faster connectivity, which is critical for business and emergency supplies. We will continue improving connectivity to various destinations and we have airlines such as Jambojet to thank for making it cheaper to fly.”

The ministry had earlier said it will spend nearly Sh1 billion over the current financial year in expanding and rehabilitating airstrips to make them accessible to aircrafts as well as equipping them to handle more cargo and passengers.

Mr Murkomen lauded Jambojet as among the airlines that have played a key role in opening up the local skies, increasing the number of flights between Nairobi and other cities and major towns and also bringing down the cost of flying.

“Ten years ago, it cost an arm and a leg to fly from Nairobi to Kisumu or Mombasa. Today, thanks to low-cost airlines like Jambojet, the cost of travel between these cities has dropped dramatically, cumulatively saving leisure and business travellers and companies millions of shillings,” he said.

“Budget airlines also offer small businesses an opportunity to transport their goods to markets in far-away destinations, thus expanding their reach.

“It is the intention of the government to demystify air travel to ensure that we enable business people to move from one corner of Kenya to another more conveniently in order to multiply their opportunities.”

Jambojet said it is planning to increase its flights to regional destinations. The airline, which has largely focused on local routes, yesterday announced that it would start flights between Mombasa and Zanzibar in July this year. 

This will be the second regional flight after Nairobi-Goma, in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a route it started plying in 2021. 

“On July 1, 2024, we are excited to inaugurate a new route connecting Mombasa and Zanzibar, further enhancing connectivity between these two coastal cities,” said Jambojet chief executive Karanja Ndegwa.

“We have developed a network that offers flexibility and convenience for travellers at an affordable price.” 

Mr Ndegwa said the airline’s market share stood at 33 per cent in 2014 but had grown to 52 per cent as at December last year.

Jambojet chairman Vincent Rague said the airliner plans to emerge as a formidable low-cost carrier in the region. 

“Our dream for the next decade of Jambojet is to achieve sustainable growth by consolidating the LCC (low cost carrier) model in the domestic market and connecting the highly underserved markets in the region,” he said. 

The airline said it has flown seven million customers since it began operations in April 2014, with 1.2 million of those in 2023 alone.

Currently, it flies from Nairobi to Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret, Malindi, Ukunda (Diani), Lamu and Goma. 

The carrier recently added Moi International Airport in Mombasa as a secondary hub in addition to JKIA and operates two routes from Mombasa to both Kisumu and Eldoret.

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