- The airline was losing revenues averaging about Sh400 million per month, during the time it was grounded.
- It now operates 154 flights weekly
As the aviation sector continues to shake off the Covid-19 dust, the Star talked to Karanja Ndegwa, CEO of a local budget airline, Jambojet, to get a feel of what it takes to run an airline in the post-pandemic era.
A Kenya Airways insider, Ndegwa was tapped to act as the airline's chief executive at the height of covid to replace Allan Kilavuka who had joined the mother company in a similar position.
Before joining Jambojet in 2014 as the chief financial officer, Ndegwa worked at Kenya Airways in different capacities, rising to the revenue accounting manager position.
He is credited with setting up the finance structures during Jambojet’s inception and has also been involved in strategy development and implementation.
His strengths lie in financial planning, capacity building, airline, and business commercial strategy as well as strategic management and revenue management.
Air transport was one of the sectors worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. How would you describe the impact in terms of revenue to Jambojet?
There was a cessation of movement for three months in 2020, one of which was a high season month of April, and one month in 2021. We could not fly from Nairobi to any of our destinations, therefore we were not earning any revenue.
Jambojet was losing revenues averaging about Sh400 million per month, during the time we were grounded.
Kindly talk about the current state and the recovery journey.
The recovery has been steady since 2021. We flew 730 thousand passengers in 2021, which was two per cent more than in 2019. However, the customers were not willing to pay more, so the yield was lower than in previous years.
At the height of the pandemic, and when we could operate flights, we were doing on average 50 per cent of our normal capacity weekly. We now operate 154 flights weekly, and this growth was driven mainly by a focus on the customer and the agility of the Jambojet people.
We pride ourselves to be a customer-centric airline, listening to them and their needs, and doing our best to address them. Second, the Jambojet people, we call them Jambojetters, are driven, agile and innovative. This has made us stay ahead of the curve.
From the two focus areas, we have developed products that solve the customer's pain points eg Jaza Pole Pole, Jambojet Charters, Shukrani and in April we launched Jambojet Rewards, the Jambojet loyalty program.
We also engaged our customers with great communication campaigns such as #HeyJambojet and #NowTravelReady ensuring we stay top of mind in the consumer’s minds.
Furthermore, we did not shy away from starting new routes and launching new products during the pandemic. In fact, we launched 5 routes during the pandemic; MBA-KIS/EDL, NBO-LAU, MBA-LAU and NBO-GOM.
Above all, we keep our promise of providing a reliable, cost-friendly, and convenient service and you can see this across many aspects of our operations.
Jambojet is angling itself as a regional carrier, with Goma being the latest destination. Which other markets are you looking at?
We have been reworking some of the plans we had laid before Covid. This means we had to relook our strategy. Our focus has been to optimize the current routes ensuring we are addressing the capacity needs of the market.
We are also working on at least one new route and will let you know once the plans materialize.
In February, you launched a cargo business with six flights expected to ferry 169 tonnes of cargo per week. How is this journey so far for Jambojet?
We use the belly capacity in each aircraft to ferry cargo to our existing network. We have so far carried over 35 tonnes. 80 percent of the cargo was to Goma, with a lot of interest in fresh produce and pharmaceuticals.
Which is your busiest cargo route and what are the major products shipped?
Goma, DRC. Interest is in fresh produce including fruits and vegetables, and pharmaceuticals.
Anything else you'd like the Star to know about Jambojet?
We launched Jambojet Rewards, the Jambojet loyalty program which allows our customers to earn points with each flight they take on Jambojet. We are now eight and a half years old, and have flown over 5.2 million passengers to date.