Travel in Africa may become easier and very much cheaper for South Africans if London-listed low-cost airline Fastjet succeeds in its intention to buy 1Time out of provisional liquidation and start it flying again.
1Time had 15 percent of the local market when it went out of business late last year.
Fastjet has already mentioned Joburg among its intended destinations this year, along with the Comores and several cities on the African continent.
But it may not be allowed to become the controlling shareholder of 1Time as it intends.
Regulations stipulate that 75 percent of a South African airline must belong to South African residents.
The Minister of Transport has the power to make an exception to this rule – but SAA, its low-cost division Mango and independently-owned Comair, which holds a British Airways franchise, are clearly dreading the effect of this potential competition on the local market at least, and submitted letters of objection to the Air Licensing Council, which will hear arguments for and against it next month.
Fastjet bought Fly 540, the rapidly growing low-cost airline based in Kenya – in June and intends to turn it into a pan-African airline. Its main hub is in Dar-es-Salaam but it plans to have a second in Nairobi and a third and fourth in Ghana and Angola. Fares start at $20 (R181) one-way, excluding taxes, and seats can be booked by cellphone using debit or credit cards, which will put it within the reach of many more prospective passengers in Africa.
SAA, Mango and Comair also have plans to expand into Africa. SAA and Comair already have regional routes and Mango is planning to develop some, and has mentioned plans for destinations which Fastjet also aims at.
We shall have to wait and see what happens.
* Meanwhile, the increasing prosperity of some African countries is attracting more flights from overseas by international and African airlines.
Kenya Airlines, which flies into Joburg, is increasing the number of its destinations within the continent in addition to its overseas destinations and has just taken delivery of its sixth Embraer E190 jet. A spokesperson said the plane was suited for short regional routes within Africa, where the airline is “keen on increasing its presence”.