Understanding Low Cost Flights

Though FastJet and JamboJet applied at about the same time for aviation licenses to fly in Kenya, FastJet started in Tanzania in November 2012, and a year and a half later,  JamboJet, a Kenya Airways subsidiary has launched flights in Kenya. 

As low-cost carriers, there are some differences which passengers here, especially current Kenya Airways customers, may not be able to understand.

  • Cost of tickets:  Going by the FastJet model, which JamboJet also has, there is the  unique pricing of tickets. While they advertise low prices of tickets e.g.Kshs 2,850 ($35) to Mombasa, Eldoret and Kisumu, not all seats on the flight cost that. The price applies to just a few and as soon as they are bought (preferably several days or weeks in advance of a flight), then the next batch of seats becomes available, at a higher rate. This goes on until fares bought on the day of the flight might be comparable or even more than the cost of a full-fare airline. 
  • Extras: Next is that the airline makes money on many extra items – things that you take for granted on Kenya Airways, are items you pay for on JamboJet; these include luggage (only 10kg  hand luggage is free), meals (Kshs 500 for a sandwich, and Kshs 200 for a soda) and even seat selection (costs Kshs 710 to pick a specific seat that’s tinier than a Probox as per @themacharia).
  • Children: On FastJet international routes, children aged less than 12 years are not allowed to travel unaccompanied. But on JamboJet domestic, this is allowed at a fee and the child must be met by a parent/Guardian within 20 minutes after arrival or additional fees will be charged.
  • Luggage: With JamboJet, a passenger is allowed to purchase a maximum of 64 kg of checked-in baggage. The only free baggage is the 10 kg hand luggage. Also, it is cheaper to pre-book and pay in advance for baggage than pay at the airport.  On FastJet, a passenger can pay for excess weight at a rate of $5 per kg up to a maximum of 32 kg.
  • Delays: If a FastJet flight is delayed by 1 – 2 hours, the airline will provide regular communication on flight status, and if the delay is 3 – 4 hours, refreshment vouchers of up to  Tsh 8,000 ($5) may be provided. If over 5 hours delay, FastJet will communicate a flight cancellation and refunds will be issued from the head office or  there will be a free transfer to (their) next available flight. So if a flight is canceled for operational, weather, or other reasons, the T&C states that FastJet will not provide flights with alternative airlines or hotel accommodation in the event of overnight delays or cancellations.
  • Changes All fares are non-refundable. On JamboJet, itinerary changes must be made 1 hour prior to departure –  and if at the time of change, the original fare is not available, the passenger will pay a higher fare 
Also, in other markets, low-cost carriers operate from smaller airports which have lower landing fees or taxes. In Kenya, an equivalent would be flying from Wilson airport or Orly Air Park as opposed to JKIA.

For now, JamboJet operates on relatively short flights to Kisumu, Eldoret and Mombasa so you won’t notice that there’s no free meal service. JamboJet also has permission from the Kenya government to fly to Wajir, Malindi, Lamu, Juba, Hargeisa, Kisangani, Pemba, Moroni, Entebbe, Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Bujumbura, Kigali, Dzaoudzi, Goma, Mwanza, Antananarivo, Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro and Addis Ababa.  Over in Tanzania Fastjet flies to Mbeya, Mwanza and Kilimanjaro, and also flies to South Africa and Zambia.