Outrageous: Burundi Blocks New Flight Because It Doesn’t Have Business Class

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Jambojet is a Kenyan low cost carrier that’s a subsidiary of Kenya Airways. The airline has a small fleet consisting of just five Bombardier Q400 turboprops. The airline also had Boeing 737s, though they’re returning those to Kenya Airways.

The airline was supposed to start flying between Nairobi, Kenya, and Bujumbura, Burundi, as of last Wednesday. However, the flight has been canceled, as the Burundi government has pulled permission for the airline to operate the flight, despite initially approving it.

The problem? The Bombardier Q400 is “unbefitting of the status of government officials travelling to Nairobi for connecting flights to other parts of the world.”

The country wants an immediate replacement of the aircraft type for “a more convenient type, for the sake of Burundi State authorities’ travel conditions.”

Burundi’s Minister of Transport, Public Works, Equipment and Land Use, had the following to say:

“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.”

In response, Jambojet’s CEO has said the following:

“Based on this authorisation (September 13), we filed our schedule…to get approval for the actual operation which was to start today (Wednesday) …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.

Unfortunately and much to our frustration we had to cancel today’s operation to Bujumbura and disappoint all passengers who expected to travel (Wednesday) on this flight.”

This won’t come as much of a surprise, but Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world, and a 2015 report showed their GDP per capita as being 267USD.

This action on the part of the Burundi government is beyond pathetic. Additional air service contributes greatly towards economic growth, and Burundi doesn’t get that many flights. So they should be thrilled to be getting additional service, but instead they’re blocking a flight because the plane doesn’t have business class seats. Apparently a standard turboprop on a 500 mile flight is “unbefitting of the status of government officials.”

Lastly, keep in mind that this is literally the only aircraft type Jambojet has, so the government is basically saying that they don’t want any single cabin low cost carriers flying there. Oy!!!

(Tip of the hat to @MeenzMev)

  1. Those officials could travel on the bulkhead if they want some special treatment, but it seems that the bulkhead seats on the propeller isn’t good enough for them

  2. I suspect the seats befitting those government officials need to be business class seats to fit their very large behinds. Everything to excess.

  3. I don’t think that i’ve ever heard of anything this outrageous, absurd…. in the aviation industry. It’s unbelievable to see what ‘criteria’ some countries use to grant traffic rights to airlines.
    And that minister was proud of himself and confidence enough to write that response.

    I actually laughed when i read that.

  4. Perhaps Jambojet can either (1) just claim these Q400 are in all business class seating (without actually changing the seating) or (2) block some seat in the first couple of rows of the aircraft and claim those are business class seats and charge accordingly.

  5. United Express used to have (maybe still has?) some two-cabin Q400’s with a 1-2 business class, the only carrier I know of with this configuration (not counting European operators that have “business class” with identical seats). Maybe Jambojet can grab a few of those. But in all seriousness, talk about entitled!

  6. If Burundi’s main connection to the outside world is by air via Nairobi, then they don’t seem to realize that the CEO of Kenya Airways probably has more influence over the economy of Burundi than these “high state officials.”

  7. These countries are their own worst enemies. And you wonder why they can’t thrive? A combination of corruption and stupidity.

  8. This perfectly shows the stupidity and greed of the regimes on the continent that keeps the masses poor.
    I bet the guy that complained has a fat ass.

  9. You can always choose your aircraft and aircraft configuration if you run your own state airline like Air Zimbabwe… seems to be a very similar mindset!

  10. Similar issues with Cairo Airport, who only grant some airlines landing rights if they offer onboard service and a business class. Air Arabia for example offer business class and full meal service, while their flights to every other destination is all economy with buy on board food. There’s a reason so many European low cost airlines don’t fly to Cairo!

  11. There could be many valid reasons for senior officials to travel in Business Class, both logistical reasons, as well as representational and protocol reasons. The same reasons that other world leaders and high ranking government officials from all sorts of countries fly business class, first class, and often in private jets. According to the Wikipedia page for Bujumbura Airport, Brussels Airlines flies non-stop to Brussels from Bujumbura and I’m guessing they have business class. Ethiopian also flies to Bujumbura, and their business class was pretty favourably reviewed on this site. I don’t think it is out of the ordinary for high ranking government officials to expect, require or need a premium airline seat. Many countries do that, all over the world, every day. But I’m puzzled that they don’t just book the options that are already available to them. There may be some cultural angle to this that is lost on us who don’t live there and are not part of their society. Keep in mind that Burundi had a devastating civil war a decade ago that killed millions of people. And the two warring parties are trying to govern together in peace. Perceived insults, slights and indignities can ignite violence between rival groups, clans and tribes in those parts of the world.

  12. Then what did they expect on a Q400. Or were they expecting a 777-300. A full flat bed with direct aisle seating ?
    The country is dependent on foreign aid and the least globalised country. It was deemed the world’s unhappiest nation 99% of its population can’t afford to travel and subsistence farmers so those corrupt officials are being entirely subsidised by us for their shopping trips to Europe

  13. So label the first couple of rows “business class”, charge 5x the normal fare, serve a glass of cheap wine, and these kleptocrats should be satisfied.

  14. I agree with Tom. Either they didn’t bribe or pay the right person or didn’t have enough $$$ to pay that person.

  15. Yup, that is pathetic. Plenty of senior government officials and elected representatives travel in economy class in developed countries. Maybe Burundi should try to sort out it’s own deep economic challenges first before trying to get all the perks.

  16. @Hector, yep. Rwandair has a small business class on their Q400s.

    I frequently fly Jambojet between Kisumu and Nairobi. (Sidenote, six (!!) airlines fly this ~40min route.) The fleet is *brand new* which is nice, but the hard product is comparable to Ryanair. Not sure why the Burundi officials expected Emirates.

  17. Keep in mind though, that Kenya Airways flies the route with a B737-800/700 which have a business class.
    Flights cost as much as a return flight to Europe.

  18. This also coming from the country where only 5.3% of their population gets electricity and the world most unhappy country… not suprised.

  19. Even if these entitled officials will only travel business class, where is their justification for effectively banning every other potential passenger by refusing the airline to operate?
    No wonder some nations have never managed to shake off their tinpot regime reputation!

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