Saint Helena airport – expensive mistake?

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Saint Helena is a remote Atlantic volcanic Island, nearly 2000 Km from mainland Africa. Saint Helena is a British overseas territory having a population is 4255, according to a census eight years ago.

The location of Saint Helena

Still today, the only transport connection to the outside world is by the ship RMS Saint Helena from Cape town, departing twice a month. The trip takes five days. RMS Saint Helena is set to be retired by the end of the year.

In contrast, a flight would take only about 3-4 hours. After years of planning, the airport construction commenced in 2012 and the airport was completed this year. Building an airport at this island was not an easy task. The island is highly rugged, and there is very limited space for a runway.

But only after the first test flights by commercial airlines it emerged wind conditions there are very difficult, even dangerous. Plans to start commercial traffic to the airport had to be put on hold. Now they have an airport, that cost £285 million, but no traffic there!

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Airline alliances in Africa

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There are three notable international airline alliances, namely Star Alliance, Oneworld and SkyTeam. Most large airlines are part of one of these alliances. Notable exceptions are Emirates, who have been hugely successful on their own, and most low-cost airlines, whose business model is much different to traditional airlines that form these alliances.

Many people favour flying primarily with one alliance, to reach upper status levels and get the best benefits. The negative side is that they often miss cheapest flights (most of them are business traveller who don’t have to pay themselves). The other problem is that the desired route or destination is often not served by an airline of the “right” alliance. This is especially true for those who travel in Africa, where the choice is often nonexistent.

Out of the three alliances, it is much obvious that Star Alliance is the only real option for travellers in this region, offering the best connections both within Africa and to other continents.

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Fake bomb forces Air France emergency landing

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The news of the day has that Air France flight AF463 from Mauritius to Paris made an emergency landing to Mombasa due to a bomb scare. After hours of contrasting rumours, and an incorrect statement by Kenya Airports Authority saying the bomb was real, it has now been revealed that the suspected bomb was actually a fake, but resembling what could be a real one. The “bomb” was made of cardboard, with an attached timer. Airport security screening would not caught this item assuming it is assembled afterwards. Some pictures of the bomb have been circulating on the web (not sure if these are authentic).

Air France Boeing 777 at Mombasa Airport after the emergency landing. A Fly540 plane is boarding on the foreground.

While the incident has been described in the media as a “false alarm“, this quite isn’t the case.  The crew on board had a good reason to believe it could be a real bomb, possibly detonating any moment. An emergency landing to the nearest possible Airport was the only option. The crew probably did the right thing not telling the 459 passengers why an emergency landing. (UPDATE: this article by Daily Nation claims that the passengers did indeed know about the suspected bomb when the plane was landing)

But who is behind the fake bomb? A bad joke by a tourist? Serious warning by a terrorist group?  Whichever the case, let the culprit be caught and pay for this stupid act.






JamboJet to Ukunda

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JamboJet, the low-cost arm of Kenya Airways recently announced three new coastal destinations: Lamu, Malindi and Ukunda. Given poor foreign tourist numbers recently in the Kenyan coast, I wonder how these routes will do.

JamboJet DASH8-400 at Ukunda Airport in April, 2015.
JamboJet DASH8-400 at Ukunda Airport in April, 2015.

Ukunda Airport, located right next to Diani Beach, is a small airport, not far away from Mombasa Airport, but since the South Coast has always been a bit isolated due to the ferry crossing, Ukunda as a flight destination should be welcomed by any visitors to South Coast. Ukunda has been to date served by other airlines like AirKenya and Fly 540, but only at steep prices. JamboJet flights to Ukunda start from around 5000 Ksh one way. Any checked luggage will add to the cost, but at 500 Ksh per 15 Kg bag a way, the price is not bad at all. Read the rest of this entry »