1time Zimbabwe set to launch operations in October

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A planned Zimbabwe-based regional start-up hopes to launch operations next month under the 1time name and is working on a deal to relaunch the brand in South Africa by buying the holding company of the former low-cost carrier.

The new airline, 1time Zimbabwe, is a joint venture between former Air Zimbabwe chief executive and owner of Central Air Transport Services (CAT), Oscar Madombwe, and South Africa-based Pak Africa Aviation, a consortium of investors from Dubai and Pakistan. Pak Africa Aviation has itself acquired a 49% stake in CAT.

Pak Africa Aviation managing director Tabassum Qadir says the new airline's fleet will consist of four dry and ACMI-leased ATR 42s and 72s. The airline will be based at Harare International airport using CAT's slots and the operating licence.

"We are ready to launch operations from Zimbabwe as soon as we have new aircraft," Qadir says, adding that the choice of destinations will be decided upon on the basis of operating rights held by CAT and on a traffic and yield analysis.

Madombwe will become chief executive of 1time Zimbabwe, Qadir says.

The airline will cater to passengers attracted by "the tourism and business opportunities in Zimbabwe" adds Qadir.

After one or two years focusing on operations in Africa, the airline will seek rights and slots to operate routes to Mumbai and Islamabad.

1time Zimbabwe will be the first of a number of regional African carriers Pak Africa intends to acquire and combine under the umbrella of the 1time brand.

The consortium is actively engaging in "mergers and acquisitions" talks says Qadir who states "we are already in negotiations with private companies in Nigeria, the Congo and Angola."

Qadir also wants to relaunch the 1time brand in South Africa and with a new fleet of leased Boeing 777-400s, operating to points across the African continent and domestically.

The launch of operations in South Africa however will depend on Pak Africa successfully purchasing 1time Holdings, the holding company of the now defunct South African low-cost carrier 1time Airlines and securing an operating licence. 1time Airlines operated low-cost flights in South Africa before its collapse late last year. Pan-African low-cost carrier Fastjet had previously held talks with 1time Airlines about buying the assets of the group.

Pak has offered 1time Holding's existing shareholders R15 million along with share options in the new company and Qadir expects both the clearance of the proposed purchase of 1time Holdings and the operators licence to be completed by September.

"We need to secure clearance in September in order to launch operations in October because there is a gap in the market right now but that is going to change with other carriers starting soon, I don't want to miss the boat," she says.

Overall, Qadir says she will invest $50 million in launching 1time Zimbabwe and 1time South Africa but admits this could grow as aviation requires "two deep pockets especially when launching a new venture."