fastJet Plans New Zambian Low-Cost Operation

African low-cost carrier, fastjet, has confirmed that it is in discussions with the Zambian government with the intention of creating a fastjet operation based at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, the main gateway into the country’s capital city, Lusaka.  The announcement comes ahead of the airline’s launch of flights to Lusaka from its Tanzanian base at Julius Nyerere International Airport, the principal airport serving Dar es Salaam, the largest city in the country, from February 1, 2014, only its second international service following the introduction of flights to Johannesburg last year.

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 fulfill by launching its flights along this route. It says it has “already recorded strong interest and sales” since opening reservations last year.

The news on the formation of a new business unit in Zambia continues fastjet’s goal to develop a pan-African network.  It is anticipated that the new operation, whilst being distributed and marketed as part of the fastjet network, it will be a Zambian registered company in which fastjet will have a substantial stake.

fastjet’s board sees the business and political environment in Zambia “as very progressive” and says discussions to date with the Zambian government, Tourist Board and other stakeholders have been “very positive”.  The Company believes the establishment of a fastjet operation would bring benefits to the country and Zambian people through “the expansion of trade and tourism links” as well as “increasing safety and reliability improvements” to the Zambian aviation industry.

The African carrier will progress its application for an Air Services Licence and Air Operator Certificate as rapidly as possible but says this process is likely to take up to six months, suggesting that flights could begin from Lusaka as early as this winter.  No further details about its operational or fleet plans have been revealed although the carrier’s chief commercial officer, Richard Bodin, revealed to The HUB at last year’s Routes Africa forum that it will explore growth into each international market on a case-by-case basis and develop a different business model for each venture, including potentially deviating from the current Airbus A319 fleet that its original business in Tanzania operates.

Alongside its launch operation in Tanzania, fastjet has already revealed plans to establish new businesses in South Africa and Nigeria, the latter with local entity Red 1 Airways.  “We have learnt a great deal and one of the key things is the need to have a strong partner on the ground.  This way you are more likely to get things to happen in the timeframe you aspire too and similarly you can be perceived as an airline for the local market rather than simply a foreign business telling locals what to do,” said Bodin.

“It may be that a different aircraft type suits a different market operation.  We are going to go through a proper aircraft evaluation process and if it turns out that a different aircraft type is better suited to an international market then that is what we will go for.  It does have to be a modern jet,” he added.

In the table below we look in greater detail at the Lusaka market and highlight the top 20 O&D markets from Zambia’s capital city for the year ending November 2013.  Proflight Zambia is the largest operator from the country with a 23.4 per cent share of this traffic, followed by South African Airways (22.0 per cent), Emirates Airline (14.6 per cent), Kenya Airways (10.3 per cent) and Ethiopian Airlines (9.2 per cent).  However, when you include the additional services marketed under the South African Airways ‘SA’ code by partner carriers, it takes the top spot with a 27.0 per cent share.

Scheduled O&D Demand from Lusaka's Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (bi-directional O&D passengers)

Rank

Destination

Estimated Demand

% Demand Share

1

Johannesburg (JNB)

132,385

17.6 %

2

Ndola (NLA)

81,194

10.8 %

3

Livingstone (LVI)

43,255

5.8 %

4

London (LHR)

34,970

4.7 %

5

Mfuwe (MFU)

30,015

4.0 %

6

Harare (HRE)

25,058

3.3 %

7

Nairobi (NBO)

24,968

3.3 %

8

Mumbai (BOM)

19,166

2.5 %

9

Dar es Salaam (DAR)

17,897

2.4 %

10

Dubai (DXB)

17,241

2.3 %

11

Cape Town (CPT)

15,553

2.1 %

12

Beijing (PEK)

15,152

2.0 %

13

Solwezi (SLI)

14,441

1.9 %

14

Durban (DUR)

12,224

1.6 %

15

Lilongwe (LLW)

9,950

1.3 %

16

Guangzhou (CAN)

9,157

1.2 %

17

Gaborone (GBE)

8,455

1.1 %

18

Addis Ababa (ADD)

8,269

1.1 %

19

Windhoek (WDH)

8,105

1.1 %

20

Entebbe (EBB)

8,021

1.1 %

TOTAL

751,837

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