A regular source from Kenyas tourism fraternity has just confirmed that 1Time, a South African LCC flying for a while now between Johannesburg and Mombasa, appears set to halt their operation to Kenyas Indian Ocean city.
High regulatory and aviation services cost have been cited as the main reason, a fact affirmed only yesterday through a presentation by Kenya Airways Phyllis Wakiaga, Coordinator Government and Industry Affairs, who spoke at the COMESA Tourism Forum to the delegates. She answered a question from the floor over the relatively high fares across Eastern Africa and the COMESA region and was specific that high airport taxes, high charges for services at airports and by aviation authorities for a wide range of fees were too high to lower the cost of air travel significantly.
Should 1Time indeed withdraw their flights this would be seen as a major blow by coast stakeholders as the postponed start of flights by Qatar Airways, allegedly over a deep rift vis a vis traffic rights between the airline and Kenyan government authorities, has already cut deep into the projections of new additional arrivals.
Said a frequent contributor from the aviation scene in Nairobi: If this is true, other airlines might follow if charges keep going up. Authorities at times in the past just raised fees with little notice and until fares are adjusted the carriers have to absorb that added cost. Proposals in the new VAT bill spell doom for aviation in Kenya, like moving from an exempt status to a double digit tax figure. Those who drafted the bill are either totally uninformed or else agents of doom for the airline industry in Kenya. We need to ascertain the reasons behind the delayed start by Qatar and the intended halt of flights by 1Time but government should take this very seriously. We do, and as elections come closer who knows who next will leave, after all, it is only weeks now till Virgin will pull out from Kenya. I think tourism needs to stand up in cabinet and lay out the start consequences of all this but with the ministers we have for transport for instance he will not cut it with his colleagues.
No comments could be obtained from official sources in the Kenya tourism industry but others, preferring anonymity, blamed escalating costs of doing business in Kenya for at least some of the downturn in fortunes, since reaching record arrivals and revenues last year. Watch this space for future developments as and when information comes to light.