The sixth route, for the national airline, saw them touch down onto the rainy but tough tarmac of the Moi International airport in Mombasa.
Billed, ofcourse, as the heart of East Africa’s tourism and business port, Mombasa is a crucial route, for the national airline.
Ministers, dignitaries, celebrities and journalists disembarked the UR 342 flight that sat on the arrivals terminal at 1:25pm local time captained by Clive Okoth, who, on his stripes of honour, wore that of flying down the first bombardier when the airline was relaunched in April.
From April, however, a lot of changes had now taken root.
For example, where once was two aircrafts, now stood a fleet of four. Where once was a Chief Executive in the names of Ephraim Bagenda, an aeronautical engineer and business executive and later Cornwell Muleya, today was Paul Turyacaisenga, who was holding fort whilst Cornwell was away. And, on the small details, where once were handwritten boarding passes, now were printed ones.
The long 1;50 minutes’ flight for many aircrafts, is cut by thirty minutes on the Bombardier CRJ 900 offering still, the same views over the Mount Kilimanjaro ranges, the sprawling farms of Kericho and the dazzling beauty of Lake Victoria.
Mombasa, though, will prove a test to the national airline that becomes the fourth to enter the market after Rwandair, Turkish Airlines and Kenya Airways. It is billed for bringing in over 8,000 tourists per week that come to see the picturesque views of the ocean and also businessmen that clear goods from the mouth port of goods from the ocean.
“We love you, but we love you more when you come with money” Evans Achoki, the Mombasa county commissioner didn’t mince words in welcoming the airline at a small cocktail lunch held at the airport.
And of course, Uganda came with the money, in the 2018 Kenya revenue authority report, Uganda singly contributed nearly a quarter of the 9.6 million tonnes of goods that transited through the port. That number means, Uganda is the single biggest client at the port.
“We have been scratching Kenya’s back”, Ambassador Tayeebwa Katureebe noted, “now it’s time for them to scratch ours back”
But perhaps, the best rebuttal to Evans comments came from Paul, the acting CEO, that “What we have launched today is not a one-way flight”.