Fastjet cuts flights


Developments at Fastjet highlight some of the hurdles that confront many of the continent’s underequipped airlines.

TANZANIAN headquartered Pan African budget carrier, Fastjet Zimbabwe, has trimmed flights on the Harare-Dar es Salaam route after pulling three of its five aircraft off service for scheduled maintenance.Fastjet operates a fleet of five aircraft.

An airline executive revealed this week that three of the airbuses were undergoing major repairs that had prompted management to “reduce frequencies or effect tactical cancellations on particular routes”.

Last year, Fastjet kicked off five weekly frequencies between the two African capitals, after starting with three flights per week in 2014.

It had been gaining significant passenger loyalty on the route, after second hand motor vehicle importers had taken respite on the short flights to Tanzania instead of enduring the 2 400 kilometre journey by road.

There has been a booming trade in the importation of second hand cars from Japan in the past decade.

Official statistics indicate that about 300 second hand cars are docked on the Tanzanian coastline from Japan per month, destined to Zimbabwe.

“Our frequencies have been reduced to cater for aircraft maintenance of our aircrafts,” Faith Chaitezvi, Fastjet’s regional marketing manager, told the Financial Gazette.

“Three of our five aircraft are undergoing major maintenance and as a result we have had to consolidate our flying schedule. As a way of consolidating our flying schedule, we have either reduced frequency or effected tactical cancellations on particular routes. This will continue until October 2016,” she added.

Developments at Fastjet highlight some of the hurdles that confront many of the continent’s underequipped airlines.

In Zimbabwe, it is an indication of the setbacks that hundreds of passengers whose loyalty had been cultivated through two years of seamless operations face.

Government recently said it was ready to embrace market forces through an open skies policy, first granting the privately run FlyAfrica the rights to fly on the Harare-Victoria Falls route.

It then made the strongest signals ever to embrace the highly capitalised Fastjet, the first time that an airline of foreign origin was granted the green light to ply the domestic route.

Fastjet had scoffed at countries still protecting their skies from foreign competition.

It currently services destinations in five countries in Africa from Dar es Salaam to Johannesburg (South Africa), Harare, Entebbe (Uganda) and Lusaka (Zambia).

But any form of setback to Fastjet on the route would boost national airline, Air Zimbabwe (AirZim)’s fortunes.

AirZim reintroduce two weekly flights to the Tanzanian capital, on June 4, offering a bonus return ticket for every five people travelling together as well as “generous baggage allowances”.

The Harare-Dar es Salaam route was the third regional destination for the airline, which already operates flights to Lusaka and Johannesburg.

Fastjet has been offering fares starting from US$50 for a one way trip.

The two airlines resumed their rivalry in the skies already playing out on the Harare-Victoria Falls route, the Harare-Johannesburg route and the Victoria Falls-Johannesburg route.

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