Domestic airfares have nearly doubled ahead of Christmas on increased demand with some routes recording full bookings a week to December 25.
Ticket prices from Nairobi to Kisumu have risen to a peak of Sh14,800 from an average of Sh6,800 during week days and about Sh10,000 on weekends.
Flights to the coastal city of Mombasa from Nairobi are almost fully booked with the cost of remaining seats increasing to Sh15, 800, from an average of Sh7, 800 in November.
Air ticket prices to Eldoret from Nairobi, which is a cheaper route compared to other destinations, have increased to Sh7,800 from an average of Sh4,200 during the low season. The quoted fares are based on yesterday’s bookings and are likely to continue rising as the Christmas holiday approaches. The prices on all routes are set to come down on Christmas Day as the number of those seeking to travel reduces significantly.
Jambojet chief executive officer Allan Kilavuka said the high fares were the product of high demand for air travel during the festive season.
“More people want to travel and there is less capacity in the market. This is what has pushed up the cost,” said Mr Kilavuka in a phone interview with the Business Daily yesterday.
The standard gauge railway (SGR) passenger train service between Nairobi and Mombasa is also fully booked ahead of Christmas, forcing holiday makers to seek expensive alternatives like road and air transport.
The bookings register shows that trains are fully booked in the days leading to December 25, signalling increased travel to Mombasa and offering a boost to hotels.
Lack of space on the SGR service, which charges Sh1, 000 for economy class and Sh3, 000 on the first class coaches, has benefited bus owners and airlines like Jambojet and Silverstone as families look to enjoy the holiday in the Coast region.
Air fares to Eldoret from Nairobi have been relatively low as the route is still not as popular as Kisumu and Mombasa. The route remains the cheapest among the major domestic flight routes due to low demand. Flights to Mombasa have traditionally been higher than Kisumu, but the fares to the two cities from Nairobi now nearly match due to pent up demand from passengers travelling to Western Kenya.
The carriers’ main challenge has been convincing Kenyans to book early, which is vital to the low-cost pricing model.
Last Friday, air fares to Kisumu from Nairobi between December 18 and 20 were costing a low of Sh4,200 one way on Jambojet, but they have since increased to Sh14,800.
The cost of the ticket is also determined by the time of travel with morning and evening flights tending to be expensive compared to afternoon planes.
For instance, passengers taking the midday flight to Eldoret will pay Sh7,800 in the morning while those travelling in the evening will part with Sh8,800.
Those flying to Mombasa between December 20 and December 25 will pay a low of Sh13,800 and a high of Sh15,800 depending on the day and time for a one way ticket.
Fly 540 flights to Lamu are fully booked between December 18 and December 24 with only one available seat on Christmas Day selling for Sh15,540 for a one way. Last month, one could get an offer starting from Sh5,270 on the same route.
Passengers flying to Kisumu on Fly540 will part with Sh14,540 on Christmas eve with only two available flights in the morning and evening on this date.
Skyward Express flights to Mombasa are fully sold out between December 23 and December 26, reflecting the high demand.
Airlines have increased the number of flights to popular destinations in response to high demand for air travel.
Jambojet has added 54 additional flights per week on most of the routes that it flies too as demand goes up.
According to the airline, they have increased return flights to Mombasa by 11, Ukunda six, Malinidi five, Kisumu two and Eldoret three. These are in addition to the already existing flights on these routes.