If you flew for leisure within the region in the just ended holiday season and cursed your airline of choice for the extortionist fares, you could be part of the reason for the high fares.
As in every sector of the economy, the laws of demand and supply keep the wheels of the travel industry moving.
I am sure there are those who are still wondering whether the expensive flights and crowded hotels were worth the money spent after all. To make it even more regrettable, some domestic airline services specifically in Kenya were chaotic and unreliable.
Last week, my editor received an email from her airline of choice informing her that on an upcoming flight she was eligible for an upgrade to business class.
I could tell she was bursting with excitement as the email, which she forwarded to me, was complete with pictures of the Premium Class cabin — flat beds and a very swanky looking interior.
Going by the tone of her brief email, I could tell that she was picturing herself in that dreamy luxurious cabin. In any case, during the holiday season a little self-pampering is well deserved.
Ryanair, one of the most successful low-cost carriers globally — often referred to as the “bad boy” of European airlines is headed by Michael O’Leary. His mantra is simple; “Short of committing murder, negative publicity sells more seats than positive publicity.”
Every time a law suit is thrown at Ryanair, its management milks every marketing mile from the opportunity.
O’Leary who believes that advertising agencies are useless and marketing companies a waste of money, is other than being the chief executive officer also head of marketing at the airline.
Ryanair came to mind when I read an article last week in our sister publication, Business Daily, on a disabled doctor who has decided to sue a Kenyan low-cost airline for discrimination.
It is agreed in aviation circles that the bulk of an airline’s revenues will come from just a few of its customers flying frequently or repeatedly.Hence the 80:20 rule: 80 per cent of an airline’s revenues will come from 20 per cent of its passengers.
Frequent flyer in this case would mean those that fly so frequently each year such that they maintain their elite status in the loyalty program of the airline their use.
Knowing this, successful global carriers put extra effort in recognising, then rewarding and pampering this small group of passengers that fly so frequently hence making the bulk of an airline’s passenger revenue.
My biggest fear of flying was amplified after watching the series “The Strain”. An extremely dark and twisted form of being – straight from Lucifer’s own backyard under transport in the belly of the aircraft finds its way to the cabin full of passengers.
You probably know how the plot unravels and yes you are thinking it’s fiction and nothing to get all wired about.
Well here is something that is not fiction; your typical airliner is home to a cocktail of germs, bacteria and tonnes of other communicable disease causing microbes.
A few weeks ago, this column encouraged travellers to consider the option of purchasing tickets directly from airline websites rather than from travel agents.
There was disapproval mainly from travel agents who felt that they remain relevant. Some argued that the region or rather Africa still lacks the infrastructure and skilled staff to handle direct online distribution and payment. Probably they were right.
Your old school taxi driver undoubtedly said the same about Uber, just as conventional hotels dismissed Airbnb.
That I get contacted by people to book them air tickets is hilarious if not outrageous. Yes, I pen this column and I do talk about aviation a lot, but that does not make me an airline ticketing representative or a travel agent.
Now that we have that out of the way, let us dig into the ticketing concerns that have most travellers flustered and panicky about their travel plans.
There is no ideal time to purchase an air ticket and no, there are no complicated algorithms to run so as to end up with your ideal ticket that fits your every expectation including price.
The regional traveller, though aware of their intentions to travel, is a last minute planner who still expects to get the best travel deal while booking late. Knowing someone who works at an airline is not going to be of any help on what to pay for an air ticket.
Never have I seen passenger curiosity go overboard than on this recent flight where both the captain and the first officer were female. They were more interactive and informative during the five-hour flight, unlike the usual dull male pilots you get on your regular flight.
The banter and ensuing conversation among the passengers on learning that two young women were in control of the plane was priceless.
After the smooth landing, the passengers cheered the captain and crew.
More than half the passengers on the flight were yearning for a chance to be in the cockpit to see for themselves how the pair were pulling off the flight.
Let’s face it, the closest most of us will ever come to a cockpit experience, even for frequent flyers, is in the movies, books or online content, yet for many, the curiosity as to what goes on in there is big.
Aviation enthusiasts even go to the extent of paying for an aircraft simulator session just to get the cockpit experience.
If you missed a recent important development in regional aviation circles, the news is that Ethiopian Airlines has inaugurated a new catering facility, the largest in Africa.
The best part of the news is that for the first time, this modern catering unit will have the Ethiopian national dish, injera, on its menu. Having positioned itself as a notable pan-African carrier, it would have been good to read about more African dishes on the menu for the African traveller. Ethiopian will also be serving Indian, Chinese, Italian and Halal dishes.
But that is a topic for another day.
It has been 97 years since the first airline meal was served aboard a flight from London to Paris but the absolute truth is that airline food is monotonous and bland. In fact, if you are travelling in economy class, a fine dining experience should be the least of your expectations.
OPINION: I have received several requests for comment on RwandAir’s new developments, most notably on the airline’s new routes and its formidable fleet expansion into wide-body aircraft.
At a time when Kenya Airways is reeling from the aftermath of poor management decisions, and talk of the revival of a national carrier for Uganda has been simmering for a while, many think RwandAir is punching way above its weight. This is a position I do not agree with.