Kenya's low cost carrier Jambojet on Monday made its first trip to Kigali International Airport as it launched scheduled flights between the Rwanda's capital and Nairobi, bringing competition to RwandAir.
With the launch of once daily flights from its Jomo Kenyatta International Airport hub, Jambojet officially becomes the first low-cost carrier to fly the route.
This now brings competition to RwandAir's doorstep which also flies to Nairobi at least three times a day. It operates domestic and international services to East Africa, Central Africa, West Africa, Southern Africa, Europe the Middle East and Asia, from its main base at Kigali International Airport in Kigali.
Jambojet which recently expanded their fleet with two brand new De Havilland Dash 8 - 400, to cater to their expansion, is expected to secure a sizable traffic between the two cities, adding pressure to existing airlines including its parent company-Kenya Airways.
Jambojet Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Allan Kilavuka, said the airline is taking advantage of the huge opportunity the African market has to offer.
"Today we mark a major milestone in our regional expansion strategy. Our aim is to grow our footprint across the continent, while offering a unique product for these markets. We expect that our low-cost model will enable more people to fly affordably, conveniently, and safely," said Mr. Kilavuka.
The airline is also eyeing South Sudan, Mogadishu, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Union of the Comoros and Malawi.
Jambojet currently flies to five local destinations namely Malindi, Ukunda, Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret and one regional destination-Entebbe, Uganda - from its hub in Nairobi.
Since inception in 2014, Jambojet, which was, in July 2019, awarded the coveted IATA Operational Safety Audit certification (IOSA), has flown over 3 million passengers, 30 per cent of whom are first time flyers.
The airline was also among the 165 aircraft showcased at the just concluded 2019 Dubai Airshow. It's the only Kenyan operator to ever be showcased at an international airshow.
"Today is an exciting day for us at Jambojet as we celebrate our entry into this land of a thousand hills," Kilavuka said when Jambojet touched down at Kigali.
The carrier currently operates 6 De Havilland Dash 8 - 400 aircraft, 4 with a passenger capacity of 78, and 2 with 82. It has two more on order to cater to its expansion into more regional destinations.
"We have the youngest fleet in Africa and one of the youngest in the world according to global aviation intelligence provider, Ch-aviation," the CEO noted.
For many years now, Rwanda has had close ties with Kenya both social economic and political ties.
Rwanda has increasingly become a business harbor for many Kenyan companies. Records from Rwanda Development Board indicate that Kenya is Rwanda's top investor and trading partner.
There are more than 1,300 Kenyan companies registered in Rwanda, with the direct employment from these firms standing at about 250,000 Rwandans.
"The ease of doing business, vibrant local economy and conducive investment conditions has seen a growth in economic opportunities for this country.And with this, has come the demand for travel between both countries as more business professionals and investors come into Rwanda," Kilavuka notes.
2018 data from the Kenya Tourism Board shows that Kenya travelers are fifth in arrivals to Rwanda, with about 65,000 Kenyans visiting Rwanda annually.
"The investment you have made as a country to improve the airport infrastructure and handle passenger traffic has seen the aviation industry here in Rwanda grow steadily, becoming a key enabler to the development of your economy," Kilavuka added.
"We want to be part of this growth by connecting Rwandans to Kenya and vice versa," he added, "We believe that our entry into this market will further boost connectivity and trade flows between the two countries."
The African market has a huge opportunity to offer, which Jambojet says, is keen to take advantage of.
Last year, low-cost carriers in Africa were estimated to have ferried at least 1.3billion passengers and accounted for 31 per cent of the world's total scheduled passengers, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO.
This is against a total of 4.3billion passengers who used air transport on scheduled services in 2018.
ICAO further notes that low-cost carriers consistently grew at a faster rate than the world average growth, and recorded an increased market share both in developed and emerging economies.
However, according to the International Air Transport Authority, all low-cost carriers across the continent account for only 12 per cent seat capacity within Africa.This presents an opportunity for growth.
"We are eyeing more destinations in South Sudan, Somalia, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Union of the Comoros and Malawi as we focus on growing our traffic across the continent and increase our market share," Kilavuka said.