Government has granted low-cost airline FastJet an air service permit for more domestic routes as negotiations for the London Stock Exchange-listed carrier to service four more Sadc countries from Zimbabwe reach advanced stages, sources have said.
In October FastJet CE Ed Winter told businessdigest that government was negotiating with some regional peers on behalf of the airline to allow the new airline to fly into those destinations in line with an ambitious government plan to make Zimbabwe a regional aviation hub even if South Africa looks unassailable in that regard.
The planned regional routes, sources said, include Johannesburg, Lubumbashi, Gaborone, Blantyre and Lilongwe.
Sources said already FastJet has been given the nod to fly the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls, Harare-Victoria routes, although the return flight will continue to be authorised for struggling state-owned national airline Air Zimbabwe.
“There are two processes which have to be pursued when an airline is seeking access to regional markets. The ministry of transport has already issued an air services permit with authorised routes to FastJet,” a source familiar with the developments said.
“Now the airline is awaiting foreign operator from respective countries of destination. The developments are quite promising. Once everything is in place we will partner with a major European airline which will carry passengers from Zimbabwe.”
Questions sent to Winter were not responded to at the time of going to print.
Meanwhile, Fastjet operations carried a total of 62 843 passengers in November 2015. The load factor for the month, according to a statement issued by the company last week was 60%, down 3% on the prior month, primarily due to the prolonged effect of the presidential election in Tanzania.
“This has reduced demand from governmental and civil service traffic, and had an adverse effect on travel more widely in the country,” the company said.
“Severe weather in November led to a slight reduction in punctuality, with 84% of FastJet Tanzania flights arriving on time.
However, 100% of FastJet Zimbabwe flights arrived on time, an excellent performance in its first month of operation.”
FastJet launched its maiden Harare-Victoria Falls flight in October.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) sees airlines trebling to 40 in 2018 from the current figures. At peak 34 airlines which include German’s Lufthansa and British Airways were landing in Harare.
The emergence of low-cost airlines on Zimbabwe’s airspace under government’s open sky policy is now seen as an aggressive strategy to woo big airlines to the country that left after relations with the West soured over alleged human rights abuses and violations of property rights following the chaotic land reform program.
Caaz’s plan also seeks boost the country’s tourism sector. Official figures show that the tourism sector is projected to register strong growth buoyed by aggressive destination marketing efforts.'