Cape Town – fastjet on Monday, 18 January, announced its newest international routes – from Johannesburg to Harare and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
The launch of these routes comes after fastjet received clearance from the Zimbabwean and South African governments to operate flights between the two respective countries.
Return flights from Harare International Airport and Victoria Falls International Airport to Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport will operate using fastjet’s modern Airbus A319 jet aircraft with seating for up to 144 passengers.
The Johannesburg/Harare route will commence on 1 February 2016 and operate daily with an additional daily flight on this route expected soon, the airline said in a statement.
Flights linking Victoria Falls to and from Johannesburg will initially be three times a week on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, commencing 3 February 2016.
Tickets for flights will be on sale this week, with fastjet advising passengers to book early to take advantage of its lowest priced fares on both routes of R1 340* ($80) one-way. This excludes government and airport taxes (R837 [$50] departing Zimbabwe / R586 [$35] departing South Africa)
The initial daily flights will depart from Harare at 06:15 and land in Johannesburg at 07:55, a flight time of 1 hour 40 minutes. The return flight from Johannesburg to Harare departs at 08:40, landing at 10:15 (all local times).
Finalised slots and timetables for the flights linking Victoria Falls and Johannesburg are still to be confirmed by the respective airports.
The flights to Harare and Victoria Falls mark the third and fourth international routes for fastjet from South Africa with the airline presently operating to Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar.
fastjet also announced that it expects to receive approval for additional international flights to commence from Zimbabwe to further East and Southern Africa markets within the first quarter of 2016.
“The only alternative to flying is to undertake long and uncomfortable journeys by road, which can take up to 20 hours from Johannesburg to Harare or Victoria Falls,” fastjet’s Chief Commercial Officer Richard Bodin, says.
“As has been the case with other routes that we have launched, we expect many of our passengers to be first time flyers who, because of prohibitively high fares, could not afford to travel by air previously,” as recent research undertaken by the fastjet shows up to 40% of passengers on all routes are first time flyers able to afford air travel for the first time.
Available for purchase on these routes will be fastjet’s luggage upgrade option, ‘Freighty’, that allows passengers to transport up to 80kg of checked in bags.
The Freighty luggage option in particular is expected to be popular with traders flying with fastjet to purchase wholesale produce in Johannesburg to transport back to their home markets to sell.
Pan-African low-cost airline Fastjet has started daily flights between Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, and Dar es Salaam, the commercial centre of Tanzania, to meet passenger demand. Previously, the airline flew between the two cities four times a week. “We have always promised to increase the frequency on our route between Lusaka and Dar es Salaam as and when our customers demand it,” stated Fastjet chief commercial officer Richard Bodin. “The increased daily frequencies emphasise our commitment to growing our flight schedule in Zambia, making air travel easy, safe and affordable.”
The new frequencies started on September 13 and provide about 1 000 more seats on the route, which is flown between Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda International Airport and Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere International Airport. Fares will start at $50, one-way, excluding government taxes.
“We are really thrilled at the positive reception that Fastjet has enjoyed in Zambia,” said Bodin. “With our low-cost fares, Fastjet is making air travel more accessible than ever before for Zambians, with many of our passengers being first-time flyers who would otherwise not have been able to afford to travel by air.”
The airline is also well advanced with its application to Zambia’s Ministry of Transport and Department of Civil Aviation for an air operating certificate, which will allow it to operate on domestic routes within Zambia. These flights will be carried out by Fastjet Zambia and the proposed routes are between Lusaka, Ndola and Livingstone.
Fastjet has been recruiting Zambians to staff the new operation, including pilots, other air crew, customer support and sales personnel, in a process that has been recently concluded. Fastjet Zambia is expected to have around 170 staff, which is the size of the workforce for Fastjet Tanzania. As in the case of Tanzania, the setting up of the Fastjet operation in Zambia is also expected to create hundreds of indirect jobs. Fastjet Zambia will also, it is planned, operate international flights from Lusaka to Kenya (Nairobi), South Africa (Johannesburg) and Zimbabwe (Harare).
Fastjet has signed a letter of intent to buy an Airbus A319 airliner. This will be a used aircraft and is reported to be nine years old. An A319 can carry, depending on configuration, between 145 and 156 passengers and is part of the A320 family of single-aisle airliners. This airliner is reported to be the first that will be owned by the airline, its current fleet of five A319s being entirely composed of leased aircraft. The aeroplane being bought will be assigned to Fastjet Zambia. The fourth and fifth of Fastjet’s A319s were both leased during this year. This means that the airline, originally launched in November 2012 with an initial fleet of three A319s (based in Tanzania), will have doubled its fleet during the course of this year. It has been reported that one of the jets leased this year will be based in Zimbabwe and the other will go to Tanzania.
Further, earlier this year, Fastjet CEO Ed Winter told the media in London that the airline’s fleet would be expanded to between 8 and 11 by the end of this year. It has also been reported that the airline could grow its fleet to 34 aircraft by the end of 2018, 66% of which it would own. He also indicated that the airline would focus on Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, countries which accounted for about 20% of Africa’s population. Since then, the airline has also been granted permission by the Malawi government to operate on the Lilongwe–Dar es Salaam route, twice a week.