African low-cost carrier, fastjet celebrated the first anniversary of its inauguration at the end of last month by announcing the launch date for its second international route. Following its recent introduction of flights from its main hub at Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere Airport in Tanzania to Johannesburg, the budget carrier will add twice weekly flights to Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, from February 1, 2014.
Despite strong trading between Tanzania and Zambia, driven in part by landlocked Zambia’s reliance on Dar es Salaam’s port, there are currently limited air links between Dar es Salaam and Lusaka. A steady increase in the onerous, 25 hour cross-border journeys undertaken by both Tanzanians and Zambians by road, demonstrates the need for affordable air travel between the two countries, which fastjet intends to fulfil by launching its flights along this route.
Commenting on the launch, Ed Winter, interim chairman and chief executive officer of fastjet said: “Building on the successes of the past year, the launch of our second international route to Lusaka moves fastjet further along the path to becoming a truly pan African carrier.
“We are incredibly pleased that, in accordance with our planned growth strategy, the roll-out of our international route network is now gaining real momentum and we are fulfilling our promise to the people of Africa to democratise air travel across the continent,” he added.
Overcoming a number of initial challenges, fastjet is now established as a reliable, affordable low-cost carrier. Over the past year, it has seen consistently strong passenger numbers and load factors, and maintained excellent punctuality and reliability records. The airline has carried over 355,000 passengers throughout its domestic network in Tanzania and internationally to Johannesburg in South Africa.
Significantly, fastjet’s research has shown that approximately 38 per cent of these passengers were first time flyers, illustrating how the company has made air travel more accessible to all Tanzanians since its first flight to Mwanza from Dar es Salaam one year ago.
“It is extremely exciting to be celebrating fastjet’s one year anniversary. We see the end of our first year as just the beginning for fastjet and we remain steadfastly committed to becoming the first true, pan African low cost airline, launching more international routes and domestic networks,” said Winter.
fastjet has brought a marked change to the African aviation sector, embracing mobile booking channels and social media platforms to sell its strategy to the market. But, it is its operational performance that has helped it secure repeat business and establish itself as a credible company in a continent that is desperate for reliable air connectivity. In its first year the carrier has reported an impressive 94 per cent On Time Performance.
“This reliability has also had a significant influence on how passengers approach air travel, especially in Tanzania,” explained Winter. “Previously, people would arrive at Julius Nyerere Airport with cash in hand, to check whether a flight was actually going to take off before they made a booking.”
“fastjet has shown that we can be trusted to take off on time, on the dates that we advertise, which means that passengers can plan their travel further in advance and be saved the inconvenience and risk of using cash to pay for their travel. This commitment to scheduling helps us keep our prices low, as the further in advance a flight is booked, the less the passenger is likely to pay for it,” he added.
The airline’s management has high hopes for its new international network. Its first international route is “performing well” and awareness of fastjet’s brand and high-quality operational performance is increasing in South Africa, according to the carrier and it expects similar success with the new link to Zambia. According to MIDT data, an estimated 26,000 bi-directional passengers flew between Dar es Salaam and Lusaka during in 2012.