fastjet Introduces Low-Cost Model to Malawi

African low-cost carrier, fastjet, is to expand its pan-African network into Malawi with a new, direct international route between the commercial centres of Dar es Salaam and Lilongwe. The airline’s sixth international route will operate between its Julius Nyerere International Airport base in Dar es Salaam and Malawi’s Lilongwe International Airport on a twice weekly basis from July 27, 2015.

fastjet Tanzania already operates domestically from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza, Mbeya and Kilimanjaro, as well as between Kilimanjaro and Mwanza, and internationally between Dar es Salaam and Johannesburg in South Africa, Lusaka in Zambia, Entebbe in Uganda, and Harare in Zimbabwe. It also operates the Kilimanjaro to Entebbe route and is in advanced talks to establish new operations in both Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“The addition of this new international route between Dar es Salaam and Lilongwe to the fastjet network emphasises our vision of becoming a true low-cost pan-African airline, and is evidence of our growing success,” said Jimmy Kibati, general manager for East Africa, fastjet Tanzania.

“Affordable air travel is key to the growth of economies across Africa. It is expensive and time-consuming to build roads to connect cities, inconvenient for people to travel over land, and even if there are existing airlines flying a route, they still exclude the majority of a country’s citizens due to the high cost of those flights,” he added.

Although the route is initially scheduled to be flown on a twice weekly basis, fastjet has already hinted that more capacity is expected to be added as demand increases. The airline has already opened reservations for the service with fares starting from $50 one-way, excluding airport and government taxes.

The fastjet base fares will be significantly lower than fares charged by the full-service airlines currently operating direct flights between the two cities: Ethiopian Airlines and Malawian Airlines. In fact the airline cites a Matrix Airfare Search of ITA Software that one way, all-inclusive fares between the two cities cannot be found lower than $359 during the month of August.

With its low-cost fares, fastjet expects many of its passengers on this new route to be first time flyers who would otherwise not have been able to afford to travel by air. Supporting this expectation is the research undertaken by the airline in December 2014, which showed that 35 per cent of its passengers were first time flyers.

“fastjet has been able to expand its international network by working closely with the governments and civil aviation authorities of Tanzania and Malawi, who understand and value the positive impact that low-cost air travel can have on the lives of their citizens and the general economy,” said Kibati.

“More affordable fares makes it easier for more entrepreneurs, tourists and other visitors to travel between Tanzania and Malawi which in turn will strengthen the countries’ relationship, boost their tourism and business sectors, and contribute significantly to both countries’ economic growth,” he added.

Our analysis of Sabre Airport Data Intelligence demand statistics shows that around 11,000 passengers flew between Dar es Salaam and Lilongwe in last 12 months (year to April 2016). The chart below highlights the average one-way segment air fares being charged by operators Ethiopian Airlines and Malawian Airlines since the start of last year.

Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen has travelled across the globe to report on developments in the aviation sector as airlines and airports have continued to evolve and…