Jambojet has apologised to thousands of holidaymakers who were stranded for three days at various airports after its flights to various holiday destinations in the Coast region were delayed and cancelled at the eleventh hour.
The domestic carrier conceded that the flight crisis was caused by excess booking of passengers and its failure to lease additional flights the current festive season.
In a statement, Jambojet customer service manager Mary Mwangi said the carrier's existing smaller aircraft could not accommodate the high volume of booked passengers.
“We apologize to all concerned for the unpleasant nature of this entire experience and assure all that we are doing our utmost to resolve the issue as soon as possible,” said Ms Mwangi.
She added: “We, at Jambojet, have had some unexpected technical challenges on our Q400 fleet that operates most of our coastal routes. Additionally, the delivery of our newly leased aircraft initially scheduled for introduction during the peak season was delayed due to unforeseen circumstances and will only be delivered in early 2017,”.
“As a result of the combination of these factors as well as the unavailability of aircraft of the same capacity, we have had to reschedule flights and carry passengers on smaller aircraft. This being high season, we have a high volume of booked passengers all of whom cannot be accommodated on these smaller aircraft,”
“We have therefore [endeavoured] to fly more frequencies with these smaller capacity aircraft and also re-route remaining passengers via Mombasa and put other passengers on Kenya Airways flights, where seats are available, to get them to their destinations,”
On Tuesday, hundreds of passengers flying to Lamu for this year’s Maulid festival were stranded for two days at Malindi Airport.
Most of affected passengers were travelling from Mombasa, Malindi and other coastal towns to the archipelago for the annual Islamic festival, which is scheduled to end this weekend.
The Kenya Airways-owned firm booked the stranded passengers in some of hotels in Malindi town before putting them on early morning flights on Wednesday and Thursday.
Others opted to forfeit their flights and travelled by public service vehicles plying between Mombasa and Lamu, a journey that takes almost nine hours due to security checkpoints mounted between Garsen in Tana River and Mokowe in Lamu County.
Some of passengers who were to fly from Malindi to Nairobi were ferried by road to Mombasa before boarding flights at Moi International Airport.
Similarly, scores of passengers who were to travel directly to Ukunda airstrip to enjoy their holidays in various hotels in South Coast were instead flown to Mombasa airport and transferred by road to reach their destinations.
Kenya Coast Tourism Association (KCTA) chairman Mohammed Hersi expressed his dismay over why Jambojet had booked passengers heading to Ukunda on a bigger aircraft that could land at Ukunda airstrip before diverting the plane to Moi International Airport, Mombasa.
“Why would you sell more tickets than you can handle then you take a bigger aircraft that cannot land in Ukunda. Passengers heading to Ukunda chose a direct flight to avoid the pain at the ferry and you go ahead to subject them to the same pain again without any qualms,” stated the KCTA chairman.
Two months ago, Jambojet announced additional flights to all destinations within the country including Lamu ahead of the festive season.
Jambojet Chief Executive Officer Willem Hondius said: “We are cognizant of the increased demand for flights during the festive season as people go on holiday or travel back home. We want to ensure that we provide our customers with value for money, greater choice as well as flexibility with the additional frequencies.”
He announced the carrier would increase flights to Mombasa from 22 weekly to 31 and 20 flights per week to Kisumu, Eldoret and Ukunda and 16 weekly flights to Malindi from 13.