Sources close to Fastjet have confirmed that the airline is in the process of reducing its fleet of aircraft from the present six to five by returning one leased A319 jet to the lessors.
The main reason for that is presently seen in the relatively softer travel market in Tanzania, where, following the inauguration of the Magufuli government, travel by civil servants has been capped and even curbed, impacting load factors on key routes.
While the launch of Fastjet Zimbabwe last year went according to schedule and now the airline serves Johannesburg nonstop twice a day out of Harare, Victoria Falls, as a domestic route and also now links Victoria Falls twice a week with Johannesburg, the airline’s expected market entry in Zambia has seen delays for reasons yet to be disclosed.
Fastjet Zambia was expected to be launched in late 2015 before expectations were moved to Q1 of this year, but with May already advancing, it is now a matter of much speculation when flights from Lusaka will finally begin. It is perhaps that delay which has now led to the temporary capping of the fleet until an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) has been secured from the Zambian Civil Aviation body and an aircraft then needs to be registered in that country.
Recent attacks by Stelios Haji-Ioannou, whose attacks on his airline, Easyjet, were stopped in its tracks by the current management of that European low-cost carrier, clearly did not help either, and while former CEO Ed Winter called it a day – he was due to stay on after resigning independently earlier this year until a new CEO was in place – Stelios may have seen a short-lived success as he does not control the board room with votes and, therefore, tries to make himself heard with other unsavory tactics.
Meanwhile, Fastjet has launched several promotional campaigns in Tanzania to stimulate travel again, domestically and on continental routes where the airline now serves Entebbe, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Lusaka, Harare, and Lilongwe.