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Fastjet plans Jo’burg service

Building on the success of its domestic operation in Tanzania, fastjet has revealed that it plans to launch regional flights to three new destinations, including Johannesburg, in the near future.

In a statement, the airline, which launched flights from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza and Kilimanjaro in November last year, said it expected to announce regional routes to Johannesburg as well as Entebbe in Uganda and Moroni in the Comoros in the next few weeks. 

The airline aims to expand to other sub-Saharan regions to become the first pan-African budget carrier operating according to the European-style LCC model. 

Euromonitor International Travel and Tourism Analyst, Paz Casal, says in a Travelmole feature report – ‘Comment: Sir Stelios could fly high in Africa’ – fastjet has the right approach to developing such a network. He notes that the carrier will benefit from operating flights on international standards of safety and reliability, as well as the ability to pay via mobile technology with M-Pesa and Airtel, challenging the sub-Saharan region’s cash-based economy and lack of Internet access. 

Meanwhile, according to Andries Ntjane, deputy director: licensing and permits at the Department of Transport, fastjet has yet to submit an application for a foreign operator’s permit to fly into Johannesburg from Dar es Salaam. 

Ewan Opperman, Director of African Encounters, doesn’t think that there is a need for another carrier to operate the Dar es Salaam-Johannesburg route. But, he adds: “I think fastjet’s idea with this route is for it to connect with all its domestic routes in east Africa [including those acquired through Fly540].”

Opperman believes if the combined fare of the Johannesburg to Dar es Salaam leg and the local east African flight, for instance to Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar or even Mombasa, were affordable, it would be a successful endeavour. Currently, he says, the Johannesburg-Dar es Salaam route is strong due to business travel but not with the leisure market as those travellers prefer direct flights to their destinations.

Flora Fubbs, The Holiday Factory’s Senior Manager of Contracting, Marketing and Operations, says demand on the Johannesburg-Dar es Salaam segment is a result of the lack of a direct service to Zanzibar. “Demand [to Zanzibar] is good but has tapered off a bit since 1time ceased operations direct to Zanzibar in November, clearly indicating travellers prefer a direct flight to their ultimate destination.” 

The success of fastjet’s low-cost model, says Opperman, all depends on how low their pricing will be. He adds: “It will also depend on how closely the airline will work with operators in South Africa to make it a successful outbound destination for the SA leisure market.”

Meanwhile, the airline’s plans to buy out 1time haven’t progressed. Ntajane says the International Air Services Council will only assess fastjet’s application again when it meets in February. He says the council will look at it very carefully because legislation prescribes that local airlines have to be a minimum of 75% locally owned and because other airlines have objected to the purchase.

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