Despite recent suggestions that Kenya Airways was going cold on the idea of launching a new low-cost airline subsidiary in the East African market after delays with the development of the business, the carrier has revealed it is fully committed to the project after formally appointing a chief executive officer for the venture.
In a statement this week, the Board of Kenya Airways has appointed Willem Alexander Hondius to lead Jambo Jet Limited. Currently project manager for the budget airline business alongside his Nairobi-based role as general manager East Africa for Kenya Airways shareholder KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Hondius was previously executive vice president and chief commercial officer of Dutch leisure carrier Transavia Airlines, a wholly-owned subsidiary of KLM.
“I am pleased to announce the appointment of Willem Hondius as Chief Executive Officer of Jambo Jet Ltd, reporting into the Jambo Jet Board which is chaired by Mr. Ayisi Makatiani,” said Dr Titus Naikuni, managing director and chief executive officer, Kenya Airways Group. “Willem brings to the airline a wealth of experience in the aviation industry especially in the low-cost airline area and will be instrumental in steering the operations of the new carrier.”
Kenya Airways has been in the process of establishing the low-cost carrier subsidiary for some time, but the appointment of the chief executive moves the airline closer to the realisation of its goal to enter the budget airline market. “There is still a lot of work to be done before operations start and this appointment is a major milestone in that process,” added Dr Naikuni.
It was initially thought that Jambo Jet could launch operations with some of Kenya Airways’ Embraer E-Jets on domestic and regional flights from Nairobi, but with those regional jets right-sizing capacity in a number of scheduled markets for the SkyTeam alliance member, it is more likely that Jambo Jet will now launch with some of its parent’s older Boeing 737-300s.
Jambo Jet is likely to target the main traffic routes within Kenya linking Nairobi with Kisumu, Eldoret and the Coastal town of Malindi, potentially replacing the national carrier on these services. It is also likely to operate between Nairobi and Mombasa, the largest domestic market, where it is most likely to fly alongside its parent, due to the large amount of connecting traffic on the route. The airline will not be limited to the domestic market though and has rights to serve regional destinations like Juba, Entebbe, Goma, Kisangani Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Mwanza, Bujumbura, Kigali, and as far as Antananarivo and Hargeisa.