Few industries were harder hit by the raging coronavirus pandemic than air travel. Government-imposed travel bans meant that passenger numbers nosedived and with them; airline revenues.
This may have far-reaching effects beyond halted business trips or cancelled holiday bookings. But the good news is that recovery has started and carriers are working the controls to regain their old cruising altitude.
Low-cost carrier Jambojet, for instance, got back to the sky on Wednesday, July 15th with flights to five local destinations between Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret, Malindi and Diani.
The budget airline – a subsidiary of national Carrier Kenya Airways had on April 7th grounded its entire fleet of nine planes following a presidential directive that essentially banned all local and international flights.
Kenya Airways also resumed local flights Wednesday morning with lift-offs to Kisumu and Mombasa.
The bad news is that even though local flights have resumed, they will be a bit lopsided thanks to safety measures put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Jambojet for instance will require passengers and crew to wear facemasks on flights at all times and its aircrafts will be deep-cleaned before and after every flight.
There will also be no meals as part of service cutting to limit touch-points which are seen as opportunities for COVID-19 to spread via close proximity between flyers and crew.
Airlines want to limit those interactions to stop the virus from spreading. Jambojet’s Acting CEO Karanja Ndegwa says that the airline has also moved to install and International Air Transport Association (IATA) approved air filtration system that refreshes the air every three minutes during flight hours.
The resumption of local air travel will reinvigorate the local tourism sector as the relatively free movement enjoyed by many citizens plays a huge role in shaping local economies and deepening cultural connections.
Before the pandemic struck, Jambojet was relentlessly focusing on a model that was responsible for changing attitudes towards local air travel, through employing an operational model that involved unbundling the different elements of airfare including; luggage, meals and the cost of the seat itself.
This model allows for reasonably priced airfares because it gives a traveller the choice of purchasing the service they want.
But limiting passenger capacity may be off the table as it disrupts the model of budget carriers because they rely on a higher density on the aircraft. Nonetheless, the effectiveness of the measures put in place to curb the spread the virus will depend in part on the goodwill of travellers.
Mr. Karanja said that the airline will continuously update its customers on these measures through its digital channels.