A number of passengers headed to Mandera were on Saturday left stranded for hours at Wilson Airport after delay in the arrival of the flight they were to take.
The passengers, some of them women and children, had arrived at the busy airport as early as 5am where they were forced to camp at the waiting area for hours.
Mr Said Abdinoor, one of the affected passengers, said that his ordeal started on Friday when he went to board a plane only to be told by his travel agency that there were delays and he should wait until Saturday.
He was told the plane he had booked was full and that his name was not in the list.
“On Saturday, I came back as early as 5am with my three children as the flight was to leave at 6am. It is now almost 12.30pm and we are yet to leave. An agent with Al Mansur Travel and Tours Agency had earlier told us to wait and that by 8am we shall have been sorted out,” said Mr Abdinoor.
Mr Mohamed Abdirahman, another disgruntled passenger, said that he had been at the waiting lounge since 4.30am. He was to board a flight at 6am to visit his ailing father in Mandera.
“We were issued with the tickets on Friday and were to travel on Saturday but we are only being told that there is a delay. Now we are being told that we will travel on Sunday. Those who are ready to pay more, in addition to the Sh6, 000 that we had paid are now being given priority,” said Mr Abdirahman.
“I was told that I have missed my flight as I was waiting for my boarding pass. They have already returned to me my ID. I don’t know what to do yet I have been here since 5am,” said another distraught passenger Eric Ochanda.
Almansur Flight Agency whose passengers were stranded at Wilson Airport could not be reached for comment as their Mandera office was closed with several phone calls going unanswered.
But behind the confusion lies a brewing cold war that has been growing since a number of cargo carriers converted into passenger carriers after Miraa flights to Somalia were stopped.
The number of planes on the Mandera route has increased from one to four a day and this is attributed to reduced miraa business to Somalia.
“Cargo planes have been converted into passenger service operating from Wilson and that is why many are coming to Mandera,” said Mr Adan Abdi, a local flight broker in Mandera.
“This is an overcrowded venture at the moment and people are finding ways of edging out others, including cutting deals with plane-owning companies,” he said.
Mr Abdi could not reveal the percentage given to the plane owners by the flight agents in Mandera but said profits have reduced.
The entry of new carriers has led to mushrooming of flight travel agencies in Eastleigh, Nairobi and Mandera which are now engaged in sabotage as they fight for passengers.
This has led to untold suffering of passengers seeking to fly into and out of northeastern county as the travel agencies — numbering at least eight in Mandera and man in Eastleigh — fight for the small market.
Shillow and Sagal Travel agents have dominated the business on the Mandera route but entry of Bayan, Guji, Khadija Buko, Mrash, Almanusur travel agencies has led to a stiff competition.
Before October, passengers were parting with Ksh16, 000 for a one-way ticket but other travel agents came on board beginning November turning the tide and now a one-way ticket costs between Ksh6, 000 and Ksh8, 000.
“We are getting a lot of competition forcing us to reduce the costs to maintain our customers and attract more,” a booking officer at Shillow Flight Agency said.
However, Mr Abdiaziz Dakat, Arabia Ward MCA said the local legislators encourage more agencies to enter the sector because it has led to lowering of ticket prices.