Kenyan regional low-cost airline Jambojet (JM, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta) has launched charter operations to diversify revenue streams amid low scheduled traffic demand because of COVID-19.

The Kenya Airways (KQ, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta) subsidiary is using only 55% of its scheduled capacity and only five of its fleet of six Dash 8-400s, leaving it with spare capacity for charter services, local media reports. Jambojet reportedly lost 80% of its revenues or an estimated KES1.2 billion Kenyan shilling (USD11 million) from the suspension of passenger flights during the country's lockdown between March and mid-July 2020.

Managing Director Karanja Ndegwa said in a statement the new charter service would cater to changing consumer demands. “Consumers now, more than ever, want privacy, convenience, and their safety and well-being assured.” Accommodating 78 passengers per flight depending on the route, the airline is targeting business travellers, families, and groups; as well as corporates, missions, and humanitarian organisations.

Jambojet has been operating scheduled domestic flights since 2014. It expanded to Uganda and Rwanda in February 2017 and November 2019 respectively. It achieved IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) registration in July 2019.

It currently flies to seven destinations from its hub at Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta to Kigali, Entebbe/Kampala, Mombasa, Eldoret, Kisumu, Malindi, and Ukunda. First-time fliers account for about 30% of customers.

Kenya reopened international flights on August 1, following the resumption of domestic flights in July.

Jambojet parent, Kenya Airways expects demand for air travel for the rest of the year to be less than half of 2019 due to the ongoing effect of the pandemic. The carrier resumed domestic flights on July 15 and gradually resumed international services since August 1. The airline currently services three destinations in Europe, 22 routes in Africa and four in Asia and the Middle East. It plans to resume flights to the US in October, Chief Executive Officer, Allan Kilavuka, told local media. “These reduced frequencies and destinations will require us to operate a smaller fleet. We’re talking to lessors into order to return aircraft early,” he said.

Low-cost carrier Fly540 (5H, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta) resumed flights on July 15 with a limited route structure of 2x daily flights to Mombasa, daily flights each to Malindi, Lamu, Eldoret, and Lodwar; and six weekly services to Kisumu. Safarilink Aviation (F2, Nairobi Wilson) followed suit by resuming domestic operations to Ukunda on July 17, according to its social media posts.

Airkenya (P2, Nairobi Wilson) reopened on August 1, but its schedules to Kilimanjaro and flights between Maasai Mara Serena and Entebbe/Kampala remained suspended until further notice, according to a company statement. It noted the closure for renovations of the Migori airstrip near the Kenya/Tanzania border for 15 months starting July 1, 2020. AirKenya typically uses the airstrip to connect the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.