Fastjet set to ‘democratise air travel in Africa’

Fastjet will reinvent the low cost carrier model for Africa, with bosses saying the new airline will democratise air travel with ticket prices starting from around US$20.

EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou is behind the plan for a low-cost carrier for Africa, which is due to be finalised on at the end of the month when Lonrho Aviation will sell its Fly540 division to Rubicon Diversified Investments for $85.7 million.

As part of the transaction, Sir Stelios’ easyGroup Holdings will own 5% of Rubicon.

Ed Winter, former chief executive of British Airways budget carrier Go and chief operating officer of EasyJet, will head up the new airline, as chief executive of Rubicon.

Winter said: “The whole of Africa is crying out for a decent aviation network. Now is the time to do it.” He said that in the US and UK there is on average 1.5 to 2 air journeys per head per year, but in West Africa the average is 0.03.

In adapting the low cost carrier model to Africa, a significant difference will be in the way tickets are distributed. In Europe, almost all tickets are sold online. However, in Fastjet’s African market, internet access can be as low as 20%.

Therefore Fastjet tickets will be distributed via travel agents, GDSs and some walk-up ticket sales. Passengers can also buy Fly540 tickets using credits through mobile phones, and Fastjet will continue this.

There are no plans to interline with other carriers, although in the future there are plans to expand the product offering.

Admitting there were challenges in terms of fuel prices, costs of operating at airports and taxes, Winter said economically the timing is ‘perfect’ as GDP in countries such as Ghana shows fast growth.

“When you visit Africa you can see what people are buying, their cars the building going on and you can see the growing middle class,” he said. Winter said he expects average fares to be around US$70.

Fly540 currently operates in Kenya, Tanzania, Angola and Ghana.

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