Archive for October, 2012

Sections of tourism stakeholders say Mwazo not welcome at WTM


Kenya’s hapless tourism minister Danson Mwazo will be facing thinly concealed hostility from his own tourism private sector, should he opt to travel to London for the forthcoming World Travel Market, besides the ITB in Berlin the most important tourism trade show in the world.

His most recent ‘in your face’ action included the attempted sacking of KTB’s CEO Muriithi Ndegwa, when he decided to slap down the board’s recommendation to renew Ndegwa’s contract for a further three years, reportedly out of a bruised ego, that KTB should have dared to ‘oppose him’ when publishing arrival statistics belying the false confidence the minister was trying to peddle.

True, if he decides to come we can do nothing but he is not welcome there. We may put up smiles but they are fake when it comes to him. He is an enemy of our industry, not our lead figure. Few have done as much damage as he has. His ego bruises as easily as the one of his party leader Odinga who sacked the most successful tourism minister Kenya ever had, Najib Balala. Personally, it shows they both are not fit to lead. But back to Mwazo, he should stay away from us for a while to cool off emotions because his presence in London will disturb more than accomplish anything. Someone has to say it and I know you will publish it’ said a regular source from Nairobi when asked how the launch of the Lamu Cultural Festival activities yesterday and the InterContinental Hotel in Nairobi went. ‘Mbithi was there [Chairman of the KTB Board of Director, Kitili
Mbithi] and brought Muriithi back with him. The applause was overwhelming and it was a vote of confident in KTB and a vote of no confidence in the minister at the same time. There are critics of KTB but we all know that giving them less money this year is the worst way to fight our way back into the main markets in Europe. Now we must spend double really and not less, we need money to open India, Russia and China some more but with the funding we have received for marketing, this is an illusion. At least the team of KTB remained intact now at the top. Muriithi has the respect of the directors and of the sector. Let him continue to work in peace for the common good. A year ago Lamu was dead because of Al Shabab, today it is returning to be in the good news again. We must promote good, not stamp on it like our minister seems to think. You in the media should ask him what he is up to and what he stands for and why he does not pack and go’ did the same source then rant on, justifiably so of course considering the lack of speaking up at crucial issues for the sector.

Watch this space as this saga is sure to have some more fallout in coming weeks.

UAE considers to strike back at Ethiopia after Etihad’s permits withheld

Anger in Abu Dhabi over Ethiopian refusal to let flag carrier commence flights

A regular Gulf aviation source has let it drop that anger is boiling over in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi,
after it was learned that the Ethiopian authorities have withheld approvals for Etihad to commence
flights, due to start on November 02nd.
The bilateral air service agreements are clear, Etihad has the right to fly to Addis Ababa. They
have spent a lot of money to prepare for the launch, marketing and all, staff employment in
Ethiopia, rent, investments in all sorts of things, lined up media and agents fam trips and all
is now in jeopardy. I would not be surprised if on landing in the UAE Ethiopian may not be subjected to
a series of ramp checks at Dubai International, to drive home the point that you do not mess
around like that. It might also have a fall out on political relations between the UAE and Ethiopia
as such blatant breaches of protocol, especially in the Arab world, means loss of face and THAT
will have a reaction somewhere‘ wrote the source in a mail just received, as the Gulf is an hour
ahead of East Africa.
Presently it is Ethiopian and Emirates flying between Dubai and Addis, and FlyDubai from Sharjah
to Addis while Etihad wanted to launch later this week flights between Abu Dhabi and Addis.
Notably did Ethiopian Airlines try their luck with flights to Abu Dhabi a few years ago but failed to
attract enough traffic, subsequently scrapping the route within months and now thought to have peddled
influence with the authorities to keep what has been described by a source in Addis as ‘unwelcome
competition from another Gulf giant‘ out of their back yard. Could this be true? In aviation, and
considering the recent politicization of the airline in a radical departure from the past strict division of
airline and ruling party, nothing would surprise me. Watch this space for breaking and regular news
from Eastern Africa’s aviation scene.

More woes for 540 Kenya as sacked staff demand bosses to be sacked too

Opposition grows against Fly 540 Kenya managers


The unceremonious sacking of a number of staff by Fly 540 management once again highlighted the woes that company has, facing law suits by creditors, by former staff and increasingly by the media on the prowl to expose the dark secrets which have until now been kept under wraps, well almost anyway as sources within the airline continue to spill the beans.
While little can be published right now, due to the need to protect those sources as well as in some cases the lack of a second independent confirmation, it is clear that the losses the airline made are far from to be blamed on start up cost for sister operations in West Africa but simply as a result of an atrociously poor performance in the East African market and horrendous decisions taken by the management of the airline. Frequent aircraft changes on the route for instance to Entebbe in the past and often time long delays have put potential clients off the airline, after many of the faithful deserted already in the aftermath of the vengeful sacking of former country manageress Jackie Arkle. Jackie now holds a senior position at RwandAir, a glowing endorsement for her abilities and a damning interdiction for the ‘sackers‘ hence exposed for their true motives.

The staff now dismissed are reportedly in contact with lawyers already representing others with plans to sue the airline, and its top management, and one source has indicated that they might also enjoin into the winding up case against 540, presently pending before court as the airline failed to pay its obligations following a judgement against them earlier in the year by Justice Havelock.
This just keeps piling up and the more it gets spread in the media and potential travellers read about it, the more uncertainty there is in the market. It can seriously affect passengers’ decisions which airline to use and even if they decide not to go to KQ there is Jetlink on almost many of the same routes. If I were in the shoes of the new FastJet guys, I know what has to be done to restore market confidence, sack the 540 managers‘ said a regular commentator from Nairobi’s aviation scene. And indeed, there appears to be intense head scratching and brainstorming among the new FastJet top brass of how to resolve this problem, for as long as this is a festering sore their own future reputation simply cannot begin to shape up as something fundamentally different from the predecessors.
Watch this space as this saga is certain to have a few more twists in the tail.

Sandy disrupts safaris as clients stuck in the States with no flights


The fallout of monster storm Sandy, which has hit the Eastern seaboard of the United States two days ago and left a wide path of destruction behind as it moved in-land, has also had repercussions here in East Africa, as tourists booked to arrive over the past days, and for the next week at least, have been stranded back in the States and parts of Canada for lack of flights. Gulf airlines connecting tourists from Washington and New York, cancelled their flights alongside the European airlines like KLM and British Airways, Swiss and Brussels Airlines, with the result of scores of non arrivals in Nairobi, Entebbe, Kigali, Kilimanjaro and Dar es Salaam. Safari operators are now counting their losses and while in many cases prepaid, allowing for cancellation or no show fees to be settled, might feel the pressure from larger clients to waive fees or try to rebook the safaris at their own cost.

In fact, those who intended to come for gorilla tracking in Rwanda and Uganda, due to the scarcity of permits, may have to wait for months or another year before they can match their own vacation dates with available permit slots for tracking. While the flight bans are expected to be lifted, there will be a backlog of flights for those stranded in the Eastern US as well as for those booked to fly home from East Africa, where they too were unable to commence their journeys, giving them an unexpected extra few days to explore attractions near their airport of departure while awaiting a call of when they will be able to travel.

Reminiscent of the great Atlantic ash cloud, which also interrupted international air transport, the fallout from events far away has reached our own shores and a senior Ugandan stakeholder had this to say overnight: ‘Yes, we are missing some clients ourselves who were supposed to arrive from the US with BA and SN. I know of others who waited in vain for their clients to come on Emirates and Qatar or KLM and are now trying to figure out when or if those tourists are still coming. They may only have a week or 10 days of vacation time for their safari and with no instant seats available could be forced to cancel. We will try to help rebook but in some cases like prepaid gorilla permits or deposits paid for accommodation in the lodges, there is very little we can do. UWA got our money for those, the lodges got our money and could end up asking for full payment if clients did not show. We immediately told everyone that this group or those individuals did not make it on their flights from the US but it is beyond us to argue such a case. I am not even sure all my contacts from the US will be reaching WTM in time next week, they might be busy rebuilding their offices which might have been flooded or destroyed. We will hope and see’.

Importers of spare parts and other top urgent air cargo and exporters of produce, which leaves East Africa by air and is destined for the US, are also counting their losses as urgent air cargo has been stuck at airports in the US, with DHL and other courier companies unable to fly shipments out of the States, nor to the States. Perishable goods in particular, kept in cold storage in Nairobi or Entebbe, will have done exactly that, perished, while waiting for airlines to resume flights unless they shipments could have been resold at short notice to other markets in the Middle East or Europe, to where flights were continuing without interruption of course.

East Africans stuck in the Eastern United States too are said to be struggling to return as soon as possible as they are faced with the added expenses for hotels and upkeep not budgeted for and at least in one case a known traveler has told this correspondent that she would only be able to get a seat via London to Nairobi on 06th November, and while on standby for all flights in between would probably not reach home before then. An airline executive from Nairobi, regularly in touch with insights and contributions added: ‘When traffic resumes out of New York and Washington and all, the people booked on those flights with confirmed tickets are the ones with the immediate right to travel. Those who missed their flights as a result of the storm and the suspension of air traffic, will be in a queue to be allocated available seats on flights to Europe or the Gulf. Air traffic has not yet resumed as we speak and may take another day or two. That is a recipe for much anger and frustration, for travelers mainly but also for airline staff who take a lot of abuse in such cases. Airlines try to work out some really important cases for travel like funerals or weddings or diplomatic missions and so forth but really, in most cases they try to find an empty seat on their flights or any other flight to put passengers on for connections. Remember we discussed this when the Icelandic ash cloud disrupted transatlantic flights. It is the same and it can be up to two weeks before all is back to fully normal. And it is a two way street, Kenyans are stranded here on business trips to the US or for visits and I guess many will just cancel because the event will be over, or the business opportunity has been lost. The only good thing is that it is not high season now across the Atlantic so the backlog can clear a little faster compared to the peak season situation when the ash cloud halted flights. I can only ask for travelers to be patient. We here want to send them off as soon as there is a seat and we book them even on other airlines to fly to Europe and then to our hub for the rest of their journey to America’.

That devastating storm with the benign name of Sandy, which left millions out of power and caused numerous deaths besides the record destruction of infrastructure, businesses and personal property, shows how the ripples of it run across the globe in today/s interlinked economies and how the impact of there is now also felt here. Watch this space.

Muriithi Ndegwa reappointed as KTB CEO by Kenya’s Head of Civil Service



News just broke that the Head of Civil Service in Kenya Francis Kimemia has re-appointed Mr. Muriithi Ndegwa as CEO of the Kenya Tourist Board with immediate effect, reversing the sacking order by increasingly under pressure Danson Mwazo, who in his capacity as Minister for Tourism openly defied the Board of Directors of KTB when they recommended Ndegwa’s contract to be renewed for a further 3 years. Knowing the working order and hierarchy in the Kenyan government, the Head of Civil Service would not likely take a step like this without at least having the nod from his immediate boss, President Kibaki, which will leave Mwazo with few choices when he gets back to Kenya in a few days.

Mwazo, presently touristing around the world in Mexico, will return to a selfignited storm of public opinion by the private sector in tourism, where the sentiment is now rife he should be sacked unless he voluntarily resigns.

Mwazo has turned into a minister blundering his way along as he goes, and pales into insignificance compared to his highly respected predecessor Najib Balala, who continues to enjoy the affection of the industry for at last being a minister fully conversant with the tourism sector’s needs and composition.

Ndegwa, inspite of a few critics with their own agenda, has earned the respect of the sector by building on the successes of KTB’s past while nurturing coalitions with the industry and key stakeholders and is now expected to lead Kenya’s delegation to the World Travel Market in London, averting a confidence crisis under already trying circumstances, after his minister failed to make any impact in cabinet to get more funding for promoting and marketing the country.

The Chairman of the Kenya Tourist Board, Stanbic CEO Kitili Mbithi, has reportedly also confirmed the re-appointment and a statement from KTB is expected soon, and will be published just as soon as available.

Now this is good news my friend, but I have not yet heard, let me confirm. But if true, and your stories always seem true, that is excellent. Our minister needs reminding who boss is in this country and he is not, he is a servant and a bad one for that matter. Let Muriithi get his troops motivated and lead us to WTM 2012 to promote our country. Thank you for always being so uptodate and telling the story ahead of most others’ said a regular source from Nairobi earlier this morning when asked to comment.

Watch this space for breaking and regular news updates from Eastern Africa’s tourism, conservation and aviation sectors.


Visit for more information about Kenya’s beaches and national parks.

Kenya Airways starts to convert B737-300 into freighters



Kenya Airways has confirmed that the airline will convert their older B737-300 models presently in passenger service into freighter aircraft, starting with 5Y-KQC being withdrawn within the next few days and then flown to China, where the conversion into a cargo plane, side door and all, will be carried out at Boeing Shanghai Aircraft Services.

The conversion is expected to be completed by February 2013, at which stage the second B737-300 will be leaving passenger service flights. According to information just received from KQ, up to four B737-300’s will be converted, ending the search for purchasing such aircraft, which has in past months not yielded the anticipated results and is arguably being considerably cheaper than adding extra B737-300’s to the fleet, which were anyway due for replacement with the more modern B737-800 NG’s starting from next year.

Kenya Airways, according to information available, currently operates 6 B737-300 but has been boosting their 38 aircraft fleet with additional deliveries of Embraer E190, which are increasingly becoming the regional workhorse aircraft serving Entebbe and other EAC destinations like Bujumbura and Kigali. Deliveries of new E 190’s are due to continue under a present purchase order until about April next year before it is anticipated that a new batch of B737NG’s will be added to the fleet.

Kenya Airways Cargo has been operating a wet leased B747-400 for flights from Nairobi to Amsterdam to Guangzhou and back to Nairobi but requires smaller aircraft capable of carrying palletized cargo to feed and de-feed from these flights to destinations where the airline’s wide body aircraft are not flying to. Destinations for the new cargo flights will be all regional destinations as well as West African destinations NOT served by B767 or B777 wide bodied aircraft.

Watch this space for breaking and regular news from East Africa’s vibrant aviation scene.

New airport plans for Istanbul to provide for growth of Turkish Airlines



When news broke that Turkish Airlines was set to connect some 30 African destinations by the end of this year, moving to 40 by the end of 2013, many had to check back to be certain of the accuracy of the statement at the time, but the ongoing rollout into Africa has made this a reality, no longer just a plan. Turkish now connects Entebbe, Kigali, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and has announced a new triangular flight from Istanbul to Kilimanjaro and Mombasa from mid December onwards, making it top dog of foreign airlines offering connections to literally all East African destinations of substance, other than Bujumbura for which, according to a regular source, plans exist but no time frame has been announced yet.

Connecting in Istanbul to over 200 destinations, including an extensive domestic network of course, and operating a fleet of nearly 200 state of the art aircraft, Turkish has almost by stealth established itself as a truly global airline and is set to grow further yet. Only recently did THY’s CEO Dr. Kotil project the number of aircraft to grow to eventually some 400, not something however one would like to see operating via the airline’s current hub Istanbul Ataturk, aka IST, which is getting increasingly congested. This limitation has been affecting the quality of ground handling and the comfort of transit passengers connecting there into the growing network of Turkish and would have a serious impact on passengers decisions when deciding if to fly with any of the Gulf carriers, operating in and out of spanking new hub airports, or building them, or use THY via Istanbul as an alternative.

News were therefore welcome when it was confirmed that a new state of the art airport with an eventual capacity of 150 million passengers will be built outside of Istanbul, sporting up to 5 runways and being rolled out in two if not three phases. Phase one should be ready by 2016 already, catering for Turkish’s rapid expansion and being able to handle the growing volume on transit passengers, crucial to THY’s ambitious growth plans for passenger numbers, besides of course providing a state of the art cargo processing centre too.

To be built in a public private partnership no final costs are available but could reach 10 billion US Dollars by 2023, when phase two of the new airport is projected to be ready. Istanbul’s present airports Ataturk and Sabiha Goekcen will also continue to operate but see long haul traffic very likely to shift to the new facility when opening in four years time. Watch this space.

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