New entrant heightens competition on the Nairobi-London route
By CHRIS MBURU
British Airways has slashed Nairobi to London fares on Christmas week as competition heats up following the entry of East African Safari Airways on the route.
The UK national carrier is offering $499 (Sh39,000) fare for the December 24- 26 economy class, down from $799 (Sh62,000) charged currently as a price war appears imminent on the region's leading air bridge out of the continent. The airline is also offering passengers connecting to continental Europe a free ride from London, charging no extra fare on the Nairobi-London fares.
Safari Air will today launch five flights a week on the route and is offering $600 (Sh47,000) on the economy class and less than $1,800 (Sh140,000) on first class seats. Current market range of between $800 (Sh62,000) to $1,000 (Sh78,000) economy fares and $2,200 (Sh170,000) to $3,500 (Sh273,000) on first class passenger seats.
By increasing capacity on the route, the EASA has already destabilised competitors. The route is currently dominated by British Airways, using a Boeing 747-400 aircraft and flying daily, and Kenya Airways, who have deployed a Boeing 767-300 Extended Range, flying eight times a week.
Other carriers connect to London indirectly through their home bases. These include KLM (via Amsterdam), SN Brussels (Brussels), Emirates (Dubai), Ethiopian Airlines (Addis Ababa) and Egypt Air (Cairo).
Analysts say EASA is likely to gain from Kenyans' habit of "tasting" new products, before making up their minds on their preferred carriers.
EASA will fly direct to Heathrow four times a week from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
The inaugural flight is expected at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport today at 10.20 local time There will also be one direct flight to Mombasa’s Moi International Airport starting December 1. Currently, EASA flies direct to Rome, Italy, and Paris, France, from Nairobi.
EASA chief executive officer Anthony Kegode said the establishment of a route between Kenya and England was a significant step for Kenya.
Additional reporting by Isaac Esipisu