The 50 million UK pounds capital raised a few months ago is apparently being put to good use already as one of Africa’s low-cost carriers has commenced its long-awaited fleet expansion exercise yesterday.
Fastjet PLC, a company quoted at the London Stock Exchange, made the announcement that the airline has signed a firm lease agreement with lessor ICBC for a fourth Airbus A319, due to join the fleet in Q3 this year. More announcements are expected in due course as the company’s Zambia operation is nearing the pre-launch period, with Zimbabwe expected to be not far behind.
The existing three aircraft are almost fully utilized in Tanzania for domestic operations and regional/continental flights from Dar es Salaam, from where Fastjet currently serves Johannesburg, Lusaka, Harare and Entebbe with Nairobi still hanging in the balance as the Kenyan regulators keep dragging their feet over granting landing rights. Fastjet last month recorded their highest passenger number yet and achieved a load factor of nearly 78 percent.
It is expected that the fourth aircraft could be used for the new Zambia operation, also giving an indication that the airline does expect to be airborne out of Lusaka by Q3 of 2015 and an upcoming visit to Zimbabwe will allow to get more information on the ground as to how far the various licensing processes have advanced there.
Unlike a more recently-leased A319 which was delivered in plain white will the fourth such aircraft be liveried and have a fleet matching interior outfitting with a full all-economy cabin.
The initial business plan, to operate 34 aircraft in at least 6 countries across Africa – the airline also acquired air operations from Fly540 in Angola and Ghana, both of which are presently dormant – according to airline sources remains, for now, intact though another source close to Fastjet conceded that the plan may need revising and adjustments. Efforts to get Fastjet off the ground in South Africa were coming to naught, to a fair degree blamed on the airline’s point man Kyle Haywood who failed to meet the company’s ambitions and has since left the company.