African low cost startup Fastjet has selected the as its initial aircraft type, with plans to take delivery of the first aircraft in September or October and build to a fleet of five within its first six months.
Fastjet is being established by African investment conglomerate Lonrho and Stelios Haji-Ioannou’s Easy Group. Lonrho holds a 73.3% in Rubicon Diversified Investments, the structure behind Fastjet, while’s founder has a 5% stake. Haji-Ioannou also will provide consulting and management services as well as the Fastjet brand.
The new low-cost carrier is based on the four air operator certificates held by Fly540, a regional airline currently serving bases in Angola, Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania.
Fastjet CEO Ed Winter tells Aviation Week that the fleet is scheduled to grow to 15 units in the first year. The entire fleet will be obtained through operating leases to ensure flexibility; the first aircraft is to be sourced from Nomura Babcock Brown.
Fastjet eventually will consider ordering new aircraft from Airbus or, says Winter, adding that it will be “hard to ignore” the A320NEO and the MAX.
Fastjet’s initial fleet choice also included the, with Winter acknowledging that the Brazilian manufacturer tried hard to place the aircraft, but in the end the lower unit costs of the A319 and the higher seat count were favored by the airline.
The A320 and the 737-800 also were considered, but judged too big for the airline’s initial phase. Attractive lease rates for the A319 also influenced the fleet decision.
The carrier has not selected an operating base or routes, but hopes to do so within the next month. The base will be in one of the four countries currently used by Fly540, and government departure taxes will have an effect. “In our model, $100 taxes don’t work,” Winter says.
The airline plans to offer fares as low as $20 one way excluding taxes and aims at average fares of $70-80. The first routes will be within West or East Africa, but given the poor connectivity between the regions, longer routes from West to East could be quickly added to the network.
Winter will not discuss the eventual size of Fastjet’s fleet, but he points out that the joint population of the four countries is 100 million people. “If only 3% of them became our customers and flew twice a year, that would be 12 million journeys,” he notes
In addition to taxation, infrastructure “is going to be a challenge,” Winter admits. But Fastjet could conceivably build its own low-cost terminals if it realizes that the existing infrastructure is unsuitable or upgrades too slow to develop.
Fastjet’s business plan does not foresee the same kind of productivity that would be typical for established low-cost carriers in Europe, the U.S. or Asia. Daily aircraft utilization is expected to be at about 10 hours per day, and turnarounds are to be achieved within 40 min. But Winter says that over time, Fastjet wants to become as productive as the existing LCCs. Fastjet also may benefit from a lack of night curfews across Africa and a willingness among passengers to travel late at night or very early in the morning.