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Inside the Sh1.5m-per-hour private jet that flew Uhuru to Japan and Russia

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s use of a luxurious private jet to travel to Tokyo in Japan and Sochi in Russia this week is likely to raise questions on the government’s commitment to austerity measures.

The Airbus 318 Elite aircraft is believed to belong to Dubai-based luxury aviation company, Constellation.

The total cost of the hire was not clear by the time of going to press, but though State House could have negotiated a favourable deal with Constellation, various reports have put the cost of hiring a similar aircraft at around Sh1.5 million per hour.

On its website and brochures, Constellation Aviation describes the A318 as boasting “the widest and tallest cabin of any business jet”.

Inside the luxurious Airbus 318 Elite aircraft which flew President Uhuru Kenyatta to Japan and Russia. PHOTO | COURTESY
Inside the luxurious Airbus 318 Elite aircraft which flew President Uhuru Kenyatta to Japan and Russia. PHOTO | COURTESY

In its ordinary layout, the plane can fit up to 200 passengers, but in its luxury kitting accommodates a maximum of 19. The luxury fittings on the A318 include an entourage lounge, a VIP dining area, a VIP lounge, a VIP bedroom and a private office.

The plane also boasts a surround sound system, a DVD player in each zone, LCD television displays, a satellite telecommunications system with seven cordless handsets, power outlets throughout all cabins, LED lighting system and dome ceiling lights in all areas, zonal temperature control, a luxurious VIP lavatory and high-speed internet.

AGEING PRESIDENTIAL JET

President Kenyatta’s official government jet is an ageing Fokker 70ER, which is operated by the military. The plane, acquired in December 1995, was used by presidents Daniel Arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki, but has a short flight range compared to the Airbus. This is perhaps the reason the President has flown on commercial jets a number of times before.

The Fokker 70 is a medium-range airliner with a maximum flight range of 3,400km, compared to the Airbus A318, which has a flight range of 5,700km.

Inside the luxurious Airbus 318 Elite aircraft which flew President Uhuru Kenyatta to Japan and Russia. PHOTO | COURTESY
Inside the luxurious Airbus 318 Elite aircraft which flew President Uhuru Kenyatta to Japan and Russia. PHOTO | COURTESY

Of the 47 units produced by Fokker before it went bankrupt in 1996, only two are used by governments as official presidential jets – the one used by President Kenyatta, and another by the Myanmar Air Force.

While President Kenyatta has flown on commercial scheduled flights before during some of his trips abroad, these come with various security, privacy and convenience headaches for heads of state, which could explain why he sometimes opts to hire private jets.

Editor’s Note: This is an abridged version of the original story which was first published by the Sunday Nation