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Fastjet says good bye to East Africa Routes

Fastjet says good bye to East Africa Routes

Fans of low cost flights from Dar es Salaam to Entebbe and Nairobi will no doubt go into mourning today, when Fastjet will operate the last of their flight to Nairobi, after Entebbe has already said goodbye to the airline yesterday. Launched in October 2015 did the route overnight bring fares down for flights to and from Nairobi, just as was the case when Fastjet had launched domestic services in Tanzania to Kilimanjaro, Mwanza and later Mbeya. 

Early bookings and taking advantage of special sales offers substantially reduced the cost of tickets on these routes after Fastjet launched flights and attracted a whole new segment of people to fly, often for the first time and switching from long distance bus travel to air travel. 

The pull out from Nairobi and Entebbe has promptly led to indications that fare levels have already started to rise again, now that the low cost rival has left the Ugandan and Kenyan skies.

Repeated calls for added capital over the past years gave the airline the funding for expansion, but regulatory delays, some thought to have been quite deliberate to protect ‘home airlines‘ cost Fastjet dearly, especially in Kenya but also seen when the airline first launched their DAR to JNB flights. 

So incidentally – cost dearly that is – did the initial partnership in Kenya with a local airline which proved disastrous in financial terms and had members of the Fastjet management team as well at least one board member – none remaining now for that matter – at loggerheads with this correspondent for regularly pointing out the obvious, something then Chairman David Lenigas simply did not want to hear or face up to.

With the quarrels eventually resolved – both with former partners and this correspondent – and personnel changes effected did Fastjet then concentrate to widen their domestic network in Tanzania with fares as low as 20 US Dollars, PLUS TAXES one should point out, proving too sweet a deal for many passengers who switched to the newcomer and filled their planes to Mwanza and Mbeya, almost obliterating the competition on some of the routes.

Inter Africa services too were expanded with Lusaka and Harare and finally Fastjet Zimbabwe launched just at the right time when FlyAfrica suffered the consequences of inept management, the withdrawal of their operating permits in Zimbabwe and the public perception that they had been taken for a ride – one which never took off for that matter.

Yet, an issue also raised with management of Fastjet in the past, was it eventually confirmed that an all Airbus A319 fleet was not suitable for some routes where lower passenger numbers should ideally have required a right sized turboprop or smaller jet and only the arrival of new CEO Nico Bezuidenhout then brought this actively to the fore. 

With another cash call for Q1 of 2017 on the cards was the fleet composition suddenly a matter of the highest priority. besides moving the company head office from London to Africa where the airline actually operates. 

Yet, the decision of switching from the A319 to the smaller but much more fuel efficient Embraer E190 too ran into hurdles, when regulators demanded that the respective AOC’s be amended first, seeing only one instead of three of the E190’s deployed.

Without these birds was it only a matter of time before Fastjet had to pull out of Entebbe and Nairobi as the A319 operation bled money on literally every flight, endangering the very survival of Fastjet by eating up the profits made on the airline’s more popular and more in demand routes.

For many Fastjet faithful, just not enough of them it seems, will it be a painful goodbye as they will have to once again pay much more to fly from Dar to Nairobi, while the previously direct flights from Dar to Entebbe will now have to route through other airports, as greater cost and with the need to change planes and undergo another annoying security check.

No doubt will Fastjet continue to be a topic here, as and when their head office finally moves from London Gatwick to Johannesburg, when the fleet exchange is completed and when at some time in the future the airline perhaps returns into the wider Eastern African skies. 

Until then, Happy Landings, just no longer in Nairobi and Entebbe.