Kenyan Airline Eyes Uganda Tourism Sector in Expansion Plan
Kenyan airlines are increasingly spreading their wings in the region by setting up subsidiaries to duplicate their commercial operations.
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AirKenya, Express and Jet Link Express are looking to move into Uganda and Tanzania, respectively, to tap into the growing demand for air transport in the countries. The economic growth in the two countries has seen them attract more businesses, which the airlines are looking to tap into.
The managing director of Jetlink Captain Elly Aluvale said the regional integration has made it easier for the airlines to move to neighbouring countries.
“There are many opportunities in the region. A country like Tanzania is a very big market with a lot of aviation potential,” he said adding that demand is high.
Jetlink Express Tanzania Limited is expected to open its doors for business in the next three months once the airline receives new aeroplanes, said Mr Aluvale. The airline has no intentions of moving to Uganda soon though, he said.
The move by Kenyan airlines to set up domestic operations in the neighbouring countries is expected to intensify competition in the domestic markets, hence lowering of air fares for the benefit of the consumer.
The airlines are also looking to stimulate air travel in the market with lower prices.
Currently, the market in Tanzania is dominated by Precision Air, of which Kenya Airways owns 41 per cent. Fly 540 and AirKenya, which operates Regional Air Services (RAS), have subsidiaries in the country mainly connecting the northern part of the country. Domestic travel in Uganda is mainly served by Air Uganda.
“There is a big market especially between Dar es Salaam and Mwanza,” said Mr Aluvale. A bus ride to the northern town takes almost 10 hours while a flight is just over an hour.
Fly 540 received its Aircraft Operation Certificate (AOC) for Tanzania in 2009 to ply the Dar es Salaam-Mwanza route, which is mainly driven by mining business, as well as Zanzibar and Kilimanjaro and the northern circuit national parks.
Following its success in Kenya and Tanzania, AirKenya has opened a company in Uganda, AeroLink Uganda Ltd, which will begin operations on June 15. The airline’s two caravans, which were delivered earlier this year, will operate scheduled and charter flights from its base at Entebbe International airport.
“The expansion plans are linked to the economic sustainability of the airline by offering a wider tourist circuit in the East African region,” AirKenya’s marketing manager, Cheryl de Souza, said in a statement.
AirKenya’s local strategy has been to connect tourist destinations – especially the major national parks and reserves. It has duplicated this strategy in Tanzania, mainly serving the northern Tanzania safari circuit and coast, and will use it in Uganda, connecting Entebbe to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls for starters.
All three airlines offer scheduled regional flights from Nairobi to the respective neighbouring countries and are betting on the subsidiaries to open up further connections.
Fly 540 has also been eyeing further growth in Africa by setting up subsidiaries in Angola and Ghana. The airline is looking to replicate its popular Kenyan low-cost model in these markets.
By WANGUI MAINA