Fly 540 has stopped flights to Dar es Salaam, barely two years after it resumed operations on the route, highlighting intensified competition in the region and painting a grim picture of how airlines are struggling to get the numbers.
The carrier had resumed flying the route in November 2017 but pulled out suddenly last year after it failed to secure sustainable business.
The firm’s corporate and industry affairs director Nixon Ooko says it was a business decision to halt the route for a while as they plan for another strategy of reintroducing flights to the Tanzanian capital.
“When we reintroduced the Dar es Salaam route, we did not get the right numbers to sustain our business on that route and that is why we suspended the flights last year,” said Mr Ooko.
Mr Ooko said plans to go back to Dar are still on and that they will be relaunching the same flight with more routes in the near future.
The airline was operating three flights a week between the two countries via Mombasa.
Though it was a unique route given that currently there are no flights that serve Dar es salaam-Nairobi-Mombasa, the airline found the going turbulent.
Initially, Fly540 pulled out of the route after it sought to partner with a local carrier under code sharing arrangement but the deal did not work out. The airline has over the years remained tight lipped over identity of the company that it sought to partner with.
In 2016, low-cost carrier Fastjet stopped its Kilimanjaro-Nairobi flights, just a month after launch citing low demand, a move that came as a reprieve to Kenya Airways and its associate Precision Air.
The UK budget airline launched daily flights between Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) on January 2016 at rates that were relatively cheaper than its two competitors.
Fastjet’s one-way tickets to Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro were priced at Sh13,200 and Sh9,900 respectively.
Fly540 was charging about Sh30,000 for a return ticket when it introduced the flights to the route. Other airlines operating there charge as high as Sh35,000 for a return ticket.
The aviation industry has been witnessing increased competition in the recent years with a rise in the number of players.
All the East African countries will have their national carriers by the end of 2019, bringing heightened competition as airlines jostle for customers.
The move, which comes as relief to travelers, who are poised to enjoy reduced fares, might render a blow to Kenya Airways, which has had near monopoly on these routes amid complaints from customers on exorbitant charges.