Hundreds of passengers flying to Lamu for this year’ Maulid festival were stranded for two days consecutively after cancellation of JamboJet flights “due to operational reasons.”
Most of affected passengers were travelling from Mombasa, Malindi and other coastal towns to the archipelago for the annual Islamic festival which kicked off on Thursday and expected to end this weekend.
On Tuesday, the Kenya Airways owned domestic flight firm booked the stranded passengers in some of hotels in Malindi town with assurance that they will fly on Wednesday.
However, some passengers scheduled to fly from Malindi Airport secured seats in the morning scheduled flight and a second one in the afternoon.
Others opted to forfeit their flights and travelled by public service vehicles plying between Mombasa and Lamu which takes almost nine hours due to security checkpoints mounted between Garsen in Tana River and Mokowe in Lamu County.
Jambo Jet disappointed more passengers after alerting them that their flight would be delayed for two hours only for the flight to be cancelled and distraught passengers taken to local hotels.
“No flight until tomorrow, we have been booked at Eden rock. They have no plane. Many passengers demanded for their refunds,” said an affected passenger, Mr Majid Basheikh.
The passengers complained that the eleventh-hour cancelation inconvenienced them since some of them were travelling on official duty pertaining to Lamu Maulidi cultural celebrations.
Some of the passengers who were to fly from Malindi to Nairobi via JamboJet flights expected to drop passengers in Lamu and return to pick them, had to be ferried by road to Mombasa to proceed with their journey through Moi International Airport.
The cause of the abrupt flight delays and cancelations between Malindi and Lamu was not clear with JamboJet failing to officially reply to our inquiries through emails and phone calls.
However, an agent told the Nation that the confusion was caused by overbooking due to huge demand for people travelling to Lamu for Christmas and New Year holiday that coincided with this year’s Lamu Maulidi festival.
Most hotels on Lamu Island recorded 100 per cent bookings of local and international visitors with Maulidi goers also expected to hit almost 20,000.
Two months ago, JamboJet announced additional flights to all destinations within the country including Lamu ahead of the festive season.
Jambojet Chief Executive Officer, Willem Hondius said: “We are cognizant of the increased demand for flights during the festive season as people go on holiday or travel back home. We want to ensure that we provide our customers with value for money, greater choice as well as flexibility with the additional frequencies.”
He announced increment of flights to Mombasa from 22 weekly to 31 and 20 flights per week to Kisumu, Eldoret and Ukunda and 16 weekly flights to Malindi from 13.