Fastjet has heralded a “momentous day” in its short history after winning approval to launch international flights from Tanzania to South Africa, Zambia and Rwanda.

The route approvals are described as a major step forward in establishing the first pan-African budget airline network.

But the airline put the launch of domestic routes in South Africa “temporarily on hold” so that it can direct all its efforts towards starting international services as soon as possible.

Fastjet has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Nigeria’s Red 1 Airways to create a budget airline operating within Nigeria and to destinations across Africa.

Chief executive and chairman Ed Winter said: “We remain totally committed to launching the Fastjet brand in South Africa as soon as possible, but given all the time and effort the team has invested over the past months to secure our international route designations, we have taken the sensible decision to prioritise setting up these lucrative and high profile routes first, before turning our attention to launch the Fastjet brand on domestic routes in South Africa.”

He said: “This is a monumental day in Fastjet’s history and brings us closer to our goal of becoming Africa’s first pan continental low-cost airline.

“To date our growth has been inhibited by lack of international routes in our network. We have expended huge effort over the past six months in obtaining these rights and we can only thank the government and population of Tanzania who have lobbied hard to allow us to gain access to the bilateral rights to operate to these countries.

“We will soon announce launch dates for flights to Johannesburg, Kigali and Lusaka from Dar es Salaam.

“We are especially pleased to be launching flights between Dar es Salaam and Johannesburg and we expect this to be a particularly popular route.

“South African Airways has had a monopoly on this route for far too long and we are very keen to offer substantially more affordable fares to customers and further stimulate the potential traffic between these key African cities. This can only have a very positive effect on the critical trade, commercial and tourism industries between South Africa and Tanzania.”

Chief commercial officer Richard Bodin said: “Fastjet is currently planning a huge sales launch activity that will see it offering its customers never-seen-before fares.

“We hope to offer early booking passengers fares as low as $100 (one way excluding government taxes and charges) to and from Johannesburg.

“We have made a commitment to the people of Africa to democratize air travel on the continent and this is another very significant step on that journey.”