African low-cost carrier, fastjet, has expanded its pan-African network into Malawi with the launch of a new, direct international route between the commercial centres of Dar es Salaam and Lilongwe. The maiden flight on the airline’s sixth international route between its Julius Nyerere International Airport base in Dar es Salaam and Malawi’s Lilongwe International Airport took to the air on July 27, 2015 and is initially being flown on a twice weekly schedule.
fastjet Tanzania already operates domestically from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza, Mbeya and Kilimanjaro, as well as between Kilimanjaro and Mwanza, and internationally between Dar es Salaam and Johannesburg in South Africa, Lusaka in Zambia, Entebbe in Uganda, and Harare in Zimbabwe. It also operates the Kilimanjaro to Entebbe route and is in advanced talks to establish new operations in both Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“Until now, it has been prohibitively expensive to fly between Lilongwe and Dar es Salaam,” said Jimmy Kibati, fastjet Tanzania’s general manager for East Africa. “We believe that affordable fares on a direct route between the two cities will make it possible for more people in Malawi and Tanzania to experience the safety and convenience of air travel.
Although the route is initially scheduled to be flown on a twice weekly basis, fastjet has already hinted that more capacity is expected to be added as demand increases. The airline has already opened reservations for the service with fares starting from $50 one-way, excluding airport and government taxes.
The fastjet model means its base fares will be significantly lower than fares charged by the full-service airlines currently operating direct flights between the two cities: Ethiopian Airlines and Malawian Airlines. In fact the airline cites a Matrix Airfare Search of ITA Software that one way, all-inclusive fares between the two cities cannot be found lower than $359 during the month of August.
With its low-cost fares, fastjet expects many of its passengers on this new route to be first time flyers who would otherwise not have been able to afford to travel by air. Supporting this expectation is the research undertaken by the airline in December 2014, which showed that 35 per cent of its passengers were first time flyers.
“We have worked closely with the governments of these two magnificent countries to establish this route, as we all agree that it will strengthen the trade, tourism and business sectors,” added Kibati.
Our analysis of Sabre Airport Data Intelligence demand statistics shows that around 11,000 passengers flew between Dar es Salaam and Lilongwe in last 12 months (year to April 2016). The chart below highlights the average one-way segment air fares being charged by operators Ethiopian Airlines and Malawian Airlines since the start of last year.