Fact Check

Fact-checking Ruto's claim that KQ flight option was more expensive than private jet to US

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In a tone-deaf response, Ruto, known for his exhortations to live within one's means, offered a sarcastic justification on Sunday, appearing to dismiss the legitimate concerns of ordinary Kenyans.

In a nation where stories of humble beginnings once captured the imagination of the people, Kenyan President William Ruto finds himself embroiled in controversy over his extravagant spending during his state visit to the United States last week.

Riding to power on the back of his religious orientation and tales of rising from being a chicken-selling hustler, Ruto now stands accused of gross misuse of taxpayer funds.

The head of state made headlines last week for his decision to charter an Emirati Royal Jet, a Boeing Business Jet (BBJ), at a staggering cost of at least $748,600 (Sh98 million), one way, from Nairobi to Atlanta.

In a tone-deaf response, Ruto, known for his exhortations to live within one's means, offered a seemingly sarcastic justification on Sunday, appearing to dismiss the legitimate concerns of ordinary citizens. He argued that chartering a commercial plane from the national carrier, Kenya Airways, would be prohibitively expensive.

"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," Ruto posted on his X account.

Is the claim by the President that the Kenya Airways option is too costly valid?

A quick check by The Eastleigh Voice on the Kenya Airways website revealed that a return ticket for business class to the John. F. Kennedy International Airport in New York would cost approximately Sh847,715.

Multiplying this amount by the 30 business class seats on a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner would total Sh25,431,450. Additionally, the KQ Dreamliner offers 204 economy seats, priced at Sh264,230 for a return ticket per seat. This brings the total to Sh53,902,920.

Opting to charter an entire Kenya Airways plane entails paying for all available seats, resulting in a total cost of Sh79,334,370 for the trip to the US and back.

President William Ruto flies out to the US for a State Visit on Monday, May 20, 2024, aboard the A6-RJU royal jet (Photo: X)

Sources indicate that Ruto travelled with a bloated delegation of more than 100 people. Chartering a KQ Dreamliner would significantly lower the cost of travel compared to hiring a BBJ, which has only 34 seats and commands a high price.

The opposition has criticised the President for what appears to be a lack of confidence in the national carrier, which has been grappling with profitability issues.

His justification, delivered with a smirk, according to commentators, served as a cruel reminder of the growing chasm between the ruling elite and the suffering masses who line up for hours to vote.

The rate for hiring the BBJ is $18,000 per flying hour, approximately Sh2,358,000. The flight duration from Nairobi to Atlanta is approximately 19 hours, which means it would cost the Kenyan taxpayer roughly Sh71,404,500 for Ruto's trip to Atlanta alone.

In an overall price quote for chartering a private jet for a trip from Nairobi to Atlanta, Washington DC, and back to Nairobi, with the jet originating from Abu Dhabi, several factors are included.

One is the cost of flying hours for the entire trip, including positioning the aircraft from Abu Dhabi to Nairobi, then flying to Atlanta, Washington, and back to Nairobi, before returning to Abu Dhabi.

There are also fees associated with every landing, take off, parking, and handling of the aircraft at each airport along the route, as well as airport taxes and fees, and catering.

The world of private jets is an exciting, enticing, luxurious and downright expensive one.

Details suggest that the entire trip using a BBJ from Abu Dhabi may have cost Kenyan taxpayers over Sh200 million for a 34-seater plane, with uncertainty about whether it was at full capacity.

In contrast, other delegations opted for commercial flights, raising questions about the expenses incurred.

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