African low-cost carrier fastjet has announced it will introduce a third weekly rotation on its brand new Dar es Salaam – Harare route before the end of September 2014 after seeing strong demand for its third international route. The frequency growth was announced just hours after the carrier operated its inaugural flight into Zimbabwe on the evening of August 5, 2014.
The airline says forward bookings for the current twice-weekly flights are “well ahead of management expectations” and with the first flights from Zimbabwe already “operating to full capacity”, fastjet has quickly decided to boost the frequency of the link.
“fastjet has responded to requests from Zimbabweans and Tanzanians asking for a direct route connecting these two cities with affordable, reliable flights,” said Ed Winter, chief executive officer, fastjet. “Yesterday’s inaugural flight from Harare was fully booked, as is Saturday’s. With future bookings also looking strong we’ve decided to add a third rotation each Thursday which we expect to commence at the end of next month.”
The new link was announced to coincide with the carrier's attendance at this year's Routes Africa forum, which took place in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe in June and was well received by Zimbabwe government officials and local media. This is the budget carrier's third international route after Lusaka, Zambia and Johannesburg, South Africa.
Despite strong commercial and cultural ties between the two cities, up until now there has been no direct air link between Dar es Salaam and Harare. The port at Dar es Salaam is used extensively by Zimbabwean traders and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Zanzibar to the east of Tanzania are popular tourist destinations.
Previously, those wishing to travel between Dar es Salaam and Harare had to spend at least two days travelling the approximate 2,200km distance by road, or they had to fly via Nairobi in Kenya or Johannesburg in South Africa involving lengthy layovers.
fastjet's entry into Zimbabwe demonstrates the Zimbabwe Ministry of Transport's on-going commitment to the improvement of its country's aviation industry and to the development of trade relationships with its neighbours, as was outlined by a number of senior Ministers during the opening day of this year's Routes Africa forum.
“The Government of Zimbabwe is delighted that fastjet is expanding its international route network to include Harare, and that in doing so it is bringing its low-cost, reliable and safe service to the people of Zimbabwe,” said Zimbabwe’s Minister of Transport, the Honourable Dr Obert Mpofu.
In his speech welcoming the arrival of the inaugural fastjet service, he added: "We have no doubt in our minds that this move demonstrates full confidence in the Zimbabwean market as a viable destination and we expect the airline’s presence to have a positive impact within the Zimbabwean aviation industry."
Speaking to The HUB at Routes Africa in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe shortly after the route was announced, Richard Bodin, chief commercial officer, fastjet, confirmed positive aspirations for the route and hinted at the introduction of additional frequencies. "We think the route will do really well. We expect to grow frequencies fairly rapidly," he said.
And this is expected to be just the first page of fastjet's story in the Zimbabwe market with additional destinations on the cards for future network expansion. "We do have plans to develop further in Zimbabwe," confirmed Bodin. "We see Victoria Falls as a strong potential destination as well as seeing other routes in to Zimbabwe and indeed out of Zimbabwe across the region. We would expect to see more activity from fastjet in this country."
With its low-cost fares, fastjet is making air travel more accessible to even more people across Africa as it expands its international network and domestic offering in Tanzania. The carrier expects many of its passengers travelling between Harare and Dar es Salaam to be first time flyers. Supporting this expectation is the research undertaken by the airline after its launch in Tanzania, which showed that 38 per cent of its passengers were first time flyers.
“Affordable air travel is key to the growth of economies across Africa,” said Winter. “It is expensive and time-consuming to build roads to connect cities, inconvenient for people to travel over land, and if there are existing airlines flying any particular route, they still exclude the majority of a country’s citizens due to the high cost of those flights.”
Here are some photographs from fastjet following the arrival of the inaugural Dar es Salaam – Harare flight in Zimbabwe...