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How Much it Costs to Charter a Kenya Airways Plane

On May 21, 2024, President William Ruto embarked on a three-day State visit to the United States of America (USA) on board a chartered Boeing B737 77W business jet from Abu Dhabi-based aviator Royal Jet, overlooking Kenya Airways.

The story elicited mixed reactions from Kenyans after it emerged that President Ruto had spent USD $1.5 million (Ksh200 million) to charter the plane. Kenyans questioned why the head of states would opt for such flamboyance when there exists cheaper options.

In his defence, the head of state claimed that his decision to charter the plane was cheaper than hiring a Kenya Airways plane.

“Fellow Kenyans, I have noted concerns on my mode of transport to USA. As a responsible steward of public resources and in keeping with my determination for us to live within our means and that I should lead from the front in so doing, the cost was less than travelling on KQ,” President Ruto said on May 26.

A KQ Charters crew member attends to customers. |Courtesy| KQ|
A KQ Charters crew member attends to customers. |Courtesy| KQ|

In this article, WoK sought to establish how much it costs to charter a KQ plane.

KQ Charters

According to the airline’s website, KQ Charters offers the chance to create customised flight options, flight schedule, onboard experience including meals and destinations, flying to almost all destinations in the world.

To maintain a place among the leading charter airlines in the region, KQ has tailored its product package to cater to Business Executives, Corporates and NGOs, Governments and Government Agencies, Individuals, Religious Organizations and Pilgrims, Students and Educational institutions, and Agencies.

Services offered by KQ Charters includes;
  • Personalized Menu for all tiers
  • Meet and assist for all tiers
  • Tarmac transfer vehicle for all tiers
  • Tarmac transfer VVIP vehicle/per Trip for all tiers
  • Porterage services per Agent excluding Classy tier
  • Porterage services at USD $30 per person for Classy tier
  • Lounge Access at USD $40 per person for all tiers
  • In addition to all the above, all passengers will have an opportunity to meet and greet the crew and Captain and take pictures

To book a KQ Charter, one is required to email their date of travel, number of passengers, origin, and destination to KQCharters@kenya-airways.com after which the airline shall return with a quote.

Prospective passengers can also call KQ’s contact center on +254 20 327 4747, Mobile: +254 711 024 747 or submit their details on their website Kenya Airways | Charter Request Form (kenya-airways.com)

KQ charter has a fleet variety based on customer requirements. Charter Requests should be submitted at least 72hrs prior to departure.

Inside a KQ Charter plane. |Courtesy| KQ|
Inside a KQ Charter plane. |Courtesy| KQ|

Cost of direct flights to the US

Kenya Airways operates daily direct flights from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to the JFK international Airport in New York.

According to the KQ website, the flight (economy class) costs Ksh167,395 one way.

In 2003, late President Mwai Kibaki flew commercial on board a Kenya Airways plane to the US and back, and Kenyans believe President Ruto should have done the same.

Arguments centered around the head of state flying KQ with his entourage of 30 officials, to the US and chartering a domestic flight between Atlanta, Georgia and Washington D.C and return on a KQ flight back.

By this logic, a section of the public believes it would have cost Ksh10,378,490 to fly to and from the US for the head of state and his entire entourage. Factoring in the cost of chartering a plane within the US for four days, the head of state’s total expenditure would have stayed below Ksh50 million.

Comparing with other Charters

To estimate the cost of the flight, WoK requested the cost of chartering a plane for 30 people from JKIA in Nairobi to the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta Georgia for the period May 28 2024 – May 31 2024 on Evo Jet.

The business liner costs between $311,600 (Ksh41,131,200) to $380,900 (Ksh50,278,800) to charter for the said period.

Counter explanations

A section of Kenyans and government leaders have defended the president’s decision to charter a plane rather than fly KQ.

Award-winning entrepreneur Dr. Ahmed Kalebi argued that using KQ which would have cost Kenya Airways and the country more in terms of opportunity cost (business lost by KQ).

“For starters, KQ Dreamliner has a daily scheduled flight to JFK New York. If the President & his entourage were to use it to Atlanta and Washington DC it would’ve disrupted the scheduled KQ flight leading to loss of business for Kenya Airways.

“The Dreamliner has 30 business class seats and 204 economy class seats costing average Ksh500K and Ksh150K respectively, meaning on passenger tickets alone the flight generates revenue of Ksh40M; and that excludes revenue from cargo on the same flight.

“It would’ve been infeasible for the President and his large entourage (including security, business delegation & government officials) to use the KQ scheduled flight to New York then use a domestic US flight to Atlanta and Washington DC, so the only practical option would’ve been to charter KQ Dreamliner for 5 days or get a private jet,” he argued.