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Safaricom launches bus booking service

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 17- Listed Telecommunications Company, Safaricom, has launched a service that will allow Kenyans to book for their bus tickets through SMS or its internet portal.

The service dubbed “Easy Travel” allows Kenyans to book their tickets through their phones and pay for their tickets through the M-PESA money transfer.

Safaricom’s Chief Executive Officer Michael Joseph on Thursday said the firm would work with various bus operators including Akamba, Crown Bus, Mololine and Coast bus to facilitate the service.

“You can book for your travel, get a confirmation and then you can pay for the ticket through M-PESA using the confirmation number. This allows you to pre-book your bus travel for anywhere in Kenya using the participating bus lines. You don’t have to call or go to the booking office; you can book from the comfort of your home and you are assured that your booking will be honored,” he explained. 

Mr Joseph also said that the firm had put in place adequate facilities to ensure smooth booking for all travelers and to ensure convenience for its travelers noting that the service was piloted in July this year before the culmination of its launch.

“We know that this is a very busy time for voice, data and M-PESA services and so we have put in all the necessary measures, in terms of capacity, particularly for M-PESA to handle the volume that we expect to have this coming week,” he said adding that the service would target all travelers who used buses to travel.

“It is particularly aimed for our subscribers who travel by bus to their destinations and it does not bring any additional costs in terms of capital to us,” he stated.

Mololine’s Chairman Joseph Kariuki said the service would increase revenue for his business as it would attract a larger customer base for his company.

“These are the kinds of services that we as operators are looking for. It will simplify our work and also that of our passengers. Passengers who were not booking our buses will now start doing so because most of our competition does not have this facility,” he said.

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Mr Kariuki added that his company had also put in place precautionary measures to ensure that its customers were not inconvenienced by the new service incase the systems were overwhelmed.

“For this particular service we are going to put aside a special office; some kind of prestige service so that when you book for a specific seat it does not clash with other passengers’ seats. We will also give our passengers a toll line to call incase the systems crashed. It will enable them to call in and tell us what problems they are facing with the booking and how we can assist them,” he stated.

Mr Joseph added that the service would improve the company’s data services as well as its money transfer service: “It will make the M-PESA service become a product with much more functionality and make it a true mobile wallet,” he explained.

Financial Controller Crown Bus Services Abdullahi Abdiwahab also said the launch of the service would increase revenue for his company. He added that the pilot phase of the initiative would ensure a smooth take off for the service particularly during this period.

“It’s very necessary for everyone to know that before we launched this product we put it to test for six months and the response was very good. We have also put in measures to ensure that we take note of any problems that might come along the way. However the way the system has been designed shows it can be able to stand the pressure of this season,” he stated.

He added that the company had also put in place measures that would ensure security and assurance for the travelers as well as ensure regular transactions of the booking structures.

“To help us identify people we will require that when you are doing your ticketing you put in your ID or passport number. In addition when our passengers get to our booking office they will be issued with the ticket which will further help us cross check the booking transaction to ensure that everything is in place,” he said.

Mr Joseph also said that through the service, the firm was moving from facilitating Internet access and money transfer to enabling subscribers to perform transactions in an efficient, cost effective and secure manner by making e-commerce a reality. 

“Over the years, we have been witnessing people crowding at bus booking offices and even literally fighting to get space on a bus. With this service we have launched, customers can conveniently book and pay for their bus fares from wherever they are,” he said.

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Recently, Safaricom launched a similar service with East African airline; Air Kenya and Aircraft Leasing Services (ALS), and KQ which has made it possible for travelers to book their airline tickets from their mobile phones and pay through M-PESA money transfer service.

The launch of the service by the telecom company is timely coming a few days before the December holiday season which is normally characterised by long queues and big crowds as passengers jostle to buy tickets to travel to their homes or holiday destinations.

The objective of this service is to enable customers get more value from their mobile phones by being able to perform e-commerce related transactions.

Service Mechanics:

To use the service, subscribers will be required to log on to from their data-enabled mobile phones. They will then select their preferred bus service provider, enter their names and mobile number upon which they will get a booking reference and instructions on how to pay through M-PESA. Once they make payments, they will receive a confirmation SMS with their booking details.

In order to cover those who do not have data-enabled phones, the innovation is also available by texting the short-code *611#. After this, one is expected to follow prompts to select the means of travel, departure town, destination town, number of passengers, date of travel, bus of choice and name of passenger.

For both the Web portal and text versions, the customer follows prompts to pay by M-PESA after which a booking reference is generated and sent by text or e-mail. This is the number quoted for one to receive an e-ticket or boarding authorization on presentation of identification document.

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