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How Nairobians got JamboJet’s offer wrong

The experience of Nairobians with the country’s first-ever low-cost flights has been a bumpy affair.

When Kenya Airways launched its low-cost JamboJet flights in April 1, the enthusiasm among city residents was based on the convenience and affordability of the standard fare of Sh2,850.

But quickly, first time fliers got disconcerted, mostly because of adjusted fares.

Though the standard fares was Sh2,850, bookings had to be made in advance. Passengers who booked flight tickets at the last minute paid much higher. A round trip on average could cost up to Sh20,000.

The flights to Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret targeted the market segment occupied by buses.

JamboJet chief executive Willem Hondius, in an email correspondence, said most customers understood their offer to mean that all seats will cost Ksh 2,850 which is not the case.

JamboJet chief executive Willem Hondius
JamboJet chief executive Willem Hondius

“We communicate everywhere that the fare is from Sh2,850 and goes up over time. People have to book well in advance to get that fare (Ksh2,850).

“Some people think that all the seats are sold for Sh2,850. We have to keep communicating to the market how it works,” said Mr Hondius.

The airline has also faced the challenge of responding to inquiries, with customers accusing it of being unresponsive to phone calls and emails.

“As from 31st of March everybody jumped on Jambojet with call numbers of up 6,000 a day. Consumers waited until the very last moment.

“We are working hard to upscale the organization, but unfortunately that can’t be done overnight as we need to create facilities and especially train the extra people we will bring in well,” said Mr Hondius.

The airline has also been the object of condemnation for delayed flights, which the chief executive acknowledges.

“We encountered quite some serious delays mainly during the first week. We faced IT problems with the check-in system which took longer to solve than expected, teething problems regarding the processes.

“In the meantime the on-time performance is much better and will further improve,” said Mr Hondius.