South Africa’s newest airline, Fly Blue Crane, is rapidly expanding regionally, having been granted 14 frequencies a week between Johannesburg and Maputo, Mozambique and 14 between Johannesburg and Manzini, Swaziland, says CEO, Siza Mzimela

She says South Africa’s International Air Services Council has given its approval for the two routes and a launch date will be announced in the next few weeks once the airline receives its foreign operator permits from Mozambique and Swaziland.  She says the Maputo route will require careful planning because Fly Blue Crane has been restricted to 400 seats per week on that route.

The airline currently leases two 50-seat, single-class, Embraer Regional Jets 145’s from Johannesburg-based Solenta Aviation and is currently in discussion with the leasing firm for two more ERJ145’s for use on the new routes. It plans to upgrade to 90-seat aircraft next year in order to grow its routes, Mzimela says, but declines to specify which aircraft type are being considered.

This follows the successful launch last week of the airline’s first international service, with twice-daily flights between Cape Town and Windhoek, Namibia.  Speaking to Tourism Update at Cape Town International Airport before the inaugural flight, Mzimela said the airline is not positioning itself as a low cost carrier, but rather offers competitive fares combined with a quality product and onboard service.

She says Fly Blue Crane is keen to introduce one or two more domestic flights, but ultimately, its aim is to focus on the region. It will be looking at additional bilateral route rights to the rest of Southern Africa. “There is still a need for additional capacity in the region at certain times of the day with smaller gauge aircraft,” she says.

Domestically, the airline currently serves secondary routes between Johannesburg and Kimberley; and Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, both of which are mostly used by business travellers. Its flights from Kimberley to Cape Town attract VFR and leisure travel.

Having launched in September last year, traffic on Fly Blue Crane is picking up, Mzimela says, especially since it is now bookable on Amadeus and Travelport, with travel agents earning 5% commission. “Everybody who has tried our product has been pleasantly surprised,” she says. “Every month our figures show that we are growing, but there is still a lot of work to be done, because of the competition and (because) we have to introduce people to a new brand.”