“When you look at Africa, [it] represents about 15 per cent of the world’s population, and about 20 per cent of the world’s land mass. Believe it or not, it only represents three per cent of the world’s aviation. It’s a continent with a real lack of roads, lack of railways, difficult terrain,” Fastjet CEO and executive chairman Ed Winter told CNBC Africa.
“Aviation should really be the way people move and over the years, for lots of reasons, [it] hasn’t really developed the way it should in Africa. We believe now is the right time for that, and we believe that the GDP growth that you see, the demand from the middle class to travel, it is exactly the right time to provide affordable travel to the African people.”
The continent is often described as aviation’s final frontier, but bureaucracy and a lack of infrastructure have held back what could be a natural mode of transport. This is especially for a continent poorly served by road and rail.
Fastjet plans to be prominent a low-cost regional carrier, and fares from roughly 3000 rand return.
Such low fares are however a concern, as fuel surcharges traditionally make up almost 30 per cent of an airfare bill.
“We’re a very efficient airline [and] we operate our resources and our people efficiently. If you look at our domestic routes, which we’ve been flying in Tanzania, if you go back to June, the average fare that people were paying was 81 US dollars,” Winter explained.
“We carried about 33,000 people that month, 1200 of them only paid 20 dollars, and over 300 of them paid over 200 dollars. There’s a big range in fares. If you’re willing to make your plans early, and book early, then you get the very low fare.”
While a number of passengers can gain access to relatively cheap flights, Fastjet’s charging average is somewhat higher to service any costs the airline is required to cover.
“Because Africa is unlike Europe, where any European airline can fly from anywhere to anywhere, in Africa each country is still jealously guarding its traffic rights. What Fastjet plans to do is to create a series of associated airlines. We’ve got Fastjet Tanzania, eventually we’d like to create a Fastjet South Africa, FastJet Kenya and so forth,” said Winter.
“For the customer, what we want to provide is one Fastjet network across Africa which they can rely on to provide them with the same levels of reliability, safety and customer service. [This is] regardless of which of the FastJet family of airlines is providing that service.”