Wednesday, 11 January 2017

KENYA: Kenya Civil Aviation Authority Investigates Jambojet

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority is investigating Jambojet after thousands of the domestic airline’s passengers were flown in a large plane that could not land at Ukunda Airstrip in Kwale County.

The airline, owned by national carrier Kenya Airways, was faulted for diverting the plane to Moi International Airport, Mombasa, and transporting the passengers by road amid the hectic activity of crossing the Likoni Channel by ferry.

Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) Director-General Gilbert Macharia Kibe said the investigations will also cover overbooking, which led to passengers being stranded for days at various airports.

In a December 30, 2016 letter to Kenya Coast Tourism Association chairman Mohamed Hersi, Mr Kibe stated that the KCAA will also investigate delays and cancellations of flights to Malindi and Lamu and Ukunda at the eleventh hour without properly informing the affected passengers.

“We at the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority would like to assure you and all other stakeholders that we are investigating the matter and, if the airline is found culpable, we shall take the necessary action,” said Mr Kibe in a letter signed on his behalf by someone identified as "S Wesechere".

There were widespread complaints by hoteliers, who were dealt a major blow after thousands of domestic tourists failed to reach their destinations.

Thousands of passengers flying to Lamu for the annual Maulid Festival had to cancel their trips as others arrived days late.

Others opted to travel by public service vehicles plying between Mombasa and Lamu, a journey that takes almost nine hours due to security checkpoints between Garsen in Tana River County and Mokowe in Lamu.

Some passengers who were to fly from Malindi to Nairobi were ferried by road to Mombasa to board flights at Moi International.

Mr Hersi had challenged the KCAA to ensure airlines operated by the rules and regulations so as to ensure tourism and other sectors of the economy that depend on the aviation industry proceed uninterrupted.

“To KCAA, we have 30,000-plus beds to fill, we have 100,000 Kenyans who earn both directly and indirectly from tourism at the Kenya Coast. As a regulator, why do you allow such sloppy service?” Mr Hersi asked.

He added: “You’re equal on matters of communication when you gave mobile telephone companies sleepless nights for dropped calls and other mundane stuff, while you guys sit pretty when holidays are messed up, connecting flight to international flights are all messed. You have a duty and a role to play. Take action,”

In an interview with the Nation, Mr Hersi said it was not their wish for Jambojet operations to be suspended by the KCAA.

In a statement, Jambojet customer service manager Mary Mwangi said the carrier’s smaller aircraft could not handle the high volume of bookings.

“We apologise 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.

Two months ago, Jambojet announced additional flights to all destinations in 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."