Africa’s first budget airline takes to skies

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London -

The world's first pan-African low-cost carrier Fastjet enjoyed keen demand on its first day of commercial operations, it said in a statement on Friday.

“Fastjet... commenced commercial flight operations on Thursday, with its first aircraft flying passengers from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza, and Dar es Salaam to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania,” the carrier said.

The group flew eight services on Thursday from Tanzania and carried more than 900 passengers.

The so-called passenger load factor, which measures the number of seats filled on flights, stood at an average of 78 percent, while three of the services had a load factor of 90 percent.

“Future demand for seats on these two initial routes is currently far outstripping supply,” Fastjet added.

“Additional flights to these destinations are already being considered, and the company also intends to expand its route network regionally over the coming weeks as the fleet grows to three Airbus A319s.”

The airline was formed earlier this year by Stelios Haji-Ioannou Ä the founder of British no-frills airline easyJet Ä and London-listed Rubicon Diversified Investments.

Haji-Ioannou's EasyGroup and Rubicon agreed to buy the aviation business of Africa-focused conglomerate Lonrho in June.

“Fastjet is delighted to see how the people of Tanzania are embracing the low cost carrier model,” Fastjet chief executive Ed Winter in Friday's statement.

“Yesterday was a huge success and a great way to start operations. We are pleased to see reservations and bookings continuing to grow. The demand for this type of air travel has far exceeded the company’s expectations.”

He added: “Passengers ranged from business people through to many first time flyers who were using Fastjet as an economic alternative to conventional bus transport.

“Clearly, as predicted, our low cost model is stimulating a whole new market of people to fly.”

Fastjet uses the existing route network of Lonrho's airline, currently operating as Fly540, in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana and Angola.

EasyGroup's move may meanwhile be challenged by easyJet which for some time has had fractious relations with Haji-Ioannou, whose family is the biggest single shareholder in the British airline with a stake of about 38 percent. - Sapa-AFP


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