A new flight between Bujumbura, Burundi and Nairobi, Kenya has been canceled by the Burundi government because there is no business class on board the airline’s aircraft.
Jambojet, a low-cost subsidiary of flag carrier Kenya Airways, was due to start flying the route between the two African capitals on Wednesday 7 November, having already obtained permission on 13 September.
However, the Burundi government has since retracted its approval upon learning that Jambojet only operates a small fleet of Bombardier DHC8-Q400 jets, relatively small planes that have no business class section.
Writing to Jambojet chief executive Willem Hondius, Burundi’s minister of Transport, Public Works, Equipment and Land Use, Jean-Bosco Ntunzwenimana, said:
“I would like to kindly inform you, as I informed your partner Kenya Airways before, that our high State officials travel to the world mainly via Nairobi and need to be treated in business class conditions that are acceptable considering their rank.”
Jambojet’s aircraft were deemed “unbefitting of the status of government officials”.
Hondius responded, saying: “Based on this authorisation (13 September), we filed our schedule…to get approval for the actual operation which was to start today (Wednesday 7 November).
“To our surprise, we didn’t receive the expected approval based on the fact that Jambojet operates Bombardier DHC8-Q400 aircraft, which is the only aircraft type Jambojet is operating.”
He added: “Unfortunately and much to our frustration we had to cancel today’s (7 November) operation to Bujumbura and disappoint all passengers who expected to travel on this flight.”
Kenya Airways has been forced to stop selling the route on its website until further notice.
The new direct route between the two countries, which are separated by Tanzania, would have taken just two hours and five minutes. Currently the fastest flight time is just shy of seven hours with a stop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Burundi is only served by three direct routes at present – from Kigali in Rwanda, Kigoma in Tanzania and Addis Ababa.
Aviation blog One Mile at a Time called the move by the government to block the new route “beyond pathetic,” adding that “additional air service contributes greatly towards economic growth, and Burundi doesn’t get that many flights. They should be thrilled to be getting additional service.”