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No, Kenya’s national airline didn’t say could have flown president Ruto to the US for much cheaper than charter

IN SHORT: Kenyan president William Ruto opted to charter a private jet for his state visit to the United States, instead of flying on Kenya Airways. While the president has said the option was cheaper, the national airline has not issued a statement refuting Ruto's claim.

On 20 May 2024, Kenyan president William Ruto began a four-day state visit to the United States. He landed back in Kenya on 25 May. Ruto chartered a private jet for the visit.

A day after his return, a statement attributed to Kenya Airways (KQ), the country's flag carrier, made the rounds on social media. It claimed that it would have been cheaper for KQ to fly the president and his delegation to the US than to charter a plane.

“The management of Kenya Airways has taken note of the ongoing public debate on the cost of the airlines services that are being portrayed as above industry norms in some quarters,” reads part of the alleged 26 May statement.

It went on: “A business class ticket to New York is currently priced at between Kshs 400,000 to Kshs 600,000. A delegation like the one that accompanied his excellency the president would cost no more than Kshs 34 million, with all flying Business Class. A return ticket on a direct KQ flight to JKF clocks Kshs 847, 715 on Business, a fraction of what it would cost for a private luxury Jet.”

The supposed statement comes as public debate rages in Kenya over why the president and his delegation chose to charter a private jet for the visit, bypassing the national airline. It came just hours after Ruto tweeted that the cost of chartering the plane was cheaper than using the national carrier.

Local media have estimated that the total cost of a one-way trip to the US was at least KSh98 million (about US$738,499).

Nation, a major Kenyan news site, put the total one-way cost for 30 people from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia in the US, where the president landed, at about KSh19,939,950 (about $150,261).

The Kenya Airways statement has also been posted here and here.

But is it legit? We checked.

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‘This statement is fake’

Africa Check noted that the airline’s previous “position statements” on matters of public interest had titles. This statement has none, which is a red flag.

The statement is also poorly written – it lacks basic punctuation and uses the wrong terms. For example, the first paragraph refers to “the airlines services” instead of the grammatically correct “the airline’s services”. 

As the national airline, Kenya Airways works closely with the government and has even had its debts settled by the state. It is unlikely that it would choose to confront Ruto over his decision to use a private jet, even to the extent of calling his remarks “reckless”.

The statement touches on the presidency and a matter of public interest and could have easily been picked up by the local media. We searched for it on the internet but came up empty.

The airline has stamped the statement “FAKE” on its verified Facebook page with the caption: “This statement is fake and does not originate from us.”

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